What would you give for an easier way to connect with the workplace and improve your communication and networking skills without having to go to events and give your elevator pitch?
How about simply getting together with a few other people to offer your help a few hours a week? People often end up doing their best networking when helping out – volunteering – at a local organization or charity.
it is not scary, it is not intrusive, it is not your elevator pitch. It is you showing your best version of yourself by providing help to an organisation and meeting other people you may not normally bump into. Yes, it is an informal way of networking, and while you still need to do formal networking, this is a great way to start making inroads into connections with others.
Volunteering really seems to get people out of their shells, says student employability specialist Nicola Buisman, who coordinates the AUT Edge Award and is a keen volunteer herself.
“I’ve seen students go from being very nervous in new situations to loving finding new opportunities to support their communities.”
Edge Award graduate Yakeyna Seiuli says being forced her to volunteer outside of AUT helped her meet new people and build new contacts.
“One of these contacts provided me with part-time employment while I was studying. He recommended me because he said I was friendly and he’d seen me engaging well with people so showing good customer service skills.”
Of course, volunteering isn’t just about networking. You are also practicing your communication skills, learning about new aspects of your community and giving back.
Winner of an AUT Edge Award volunteering prize, Kelly D’Mello found volunteering taught her that grades weren’t everything.
“I realised that I need to make time to do the things that I value and make me happy, she says.
Another AUT Edge Award graduate Edward Hong talked of the soft skills he developed.
“It touched on crucial soft skills you need in your career, namely, teamwork, organisation, and a willingness to get involved and help others.”
Nicola points out that employers also look for volunteering on student and graduate CVs.
“It shows that you care about more than just your grades and that you can go above and beyond what is expected. Those are really valuable traits for employers to see.”
And if none of this persuades you just think of all those things you enjoyed as a kid or enjoy now that wouldn’t survive without volunteers - sports clubs, church groups, drama activities, community activities, … the list goes on.
If you’re not sure where to volunteer, Volunteering Auckland is a good place to start because it is an umbrella group for a large number of organisations looking for volunteers. AUT Edge Award and Beyond AUT Award students can also find ongoing volunteer opportunities on the AUT Edge Award Facebook page.
Some of the most popular organisations AUT Edge students engage with off campus are – St Johns, Red Cross, Elizabeth Knox Hospital, Girl Guiding, SPCA, Heart Foundation, Breast Cancer Foundation, Citizens Advice Bureau, Cancer Society NZ and Conservation Volunteers.
Want to know more about the AUT Edge Award or Beyond AUT Award. Get in touch with Nicola here.
Written by AUT Employability Careers writer Angela McCarthy
Caption: Nicola Buisman planting trees