After attending a Study Melbourne Live Volunteering Information session in November, Carlos was encouraged to volunteer at the Sustainable Living Festival. An engineer by trade, with a passion for renewable energy, he wasn’t sure he’d enjoy festivals and events work. But, by giving it a try, Carlos discovered a lot of like-minded people and learnt more than he expected.
Volunteering inspires real behavioural change
Volunteering at the Sustainable Living Festival was an incredible and life-changing experience for Carlos. Literally, he changed his lifestyle after learning more about sustainable transport alternatives.
Inspired by seeing a bicycle made from recycled materials at one of the festival displays, Carlos committed to minimising his own environmental impact.
“One of the main aims of the festival was how you can reduce your carbon footprint, so I've been tracking my own carbon footprint. Now we are recycling a lot and we're using bikes and it's been amazing, actually.”
Even mundane tasks, like helping wash dishes, supported the festival’s sustainability goals by minimising the waste of disposable plates. Although, not all learnings from the festival involved dirty dishes!
Learn a range of new professional skills through volunteering
To work well in the volunteer crew, Carlos had to step up his teamwork skills. He learnt to listen well to others and collaborate with team members to resolve problems without clear instruction.
He also had a chance to work directly with the public. Learning to deal with difficult people in a client service role was all about keeping cool and calm under pressure. Even when festival-goers were impolite or rude, Carlos practised creating positive interactions by communicating in a friendly and engaging manner.
“I can take that skill to my job or my future job, especially the engineering sector where we are under huge pressure.”
Relax, these things take time
International students might think if they apply for a volunteer role they can start that day, but Carlos learnt that Australians take the time to read your CV and to look at your profile.
Employers want to be sure you have a shared understanding and that you can get along with a wide variety of people because team building is extremely important. So don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear back straight away. Organisations need time to assess a candidate’s suitability.
Also, the expectations and pace of work were different - Carlos was used to working a six-day week.
“There is only time for work in Colombia, it’s unusual to take breaks.”
Encouraged to enjoy a work/life balance, he was relieved to discover he had Saturdays off in his volunteer assignment.
Volunteer your way to an ideal role over time
So, what happens if your ideal volunteering role requires prior experience on your CV? Carlos says to be prepared to start in an entry-level volunteering role, assisting at an event or something general.
“I met so many people who have started with a voluntary job and now they are engineers working. They have become valuable because they built networks there.”
Start at the beginning, keep going and don’t give up if you don’t get the role you want at first. Everybody has to start from some point.
There is a wide variety of options to do voluntary work in Australia. It’s worthwhile doing your homework to find a good “fit” for a role. Even though it’s unpaid, you’ll earn a ton of value in other ways.
Volunteering and Study Melbourne
Check our volunteer page for information about volunteering programs, information sessions and opportunities brought to you by Study Melbourne.
Andrea Mayorga's story
First, forget any preconceptions you have. Second, try. Go out from your comfort zone. I think volunteering is a good way to start that.Andrea Mayorga, Colombia