While looking for a job and feeling a little homesick from her home in the Philippines, Cristina Magbojos turned to volunteering to reach out to others, gain friends and learn something new. Over time, her investment in social connections grew to create new job opportunities, as she was recommended through her networks.
Volunteering can help create a support and friendship network for newcomers
Cristina had a long history of volunteering in her home country and in Australia. When arriving in Melbourne one of her first roles was helping with the Chinese New Year celebrations – something she was passionate about and helped to connect her to new friends.
In January, 2018 she attended the Study Melbourne Live Volunteers information session to compliment her recent participation in VU Vollies. This proactive approach to a structured volunteering journey has Cristina to extend her pathway in volunteering and has led her to take part in the West Footscray Festival of Colours.
Cristina says that volunteering has been key to her staying happy and connected in Australia.
“I think I am a very sociable person, and if you’re in a new country and you feel sort of isolated, it can be bad. I think volunteering opened the doors to connecting again, with new friends, nice people, and just being part of the community. That sort of thing helped me a lot.”
Getting out among Australia’s multicultural community also helped build confidence in cross-cultural communication. Working alongside native Australians has helped Cristina adjust to the informality of communication and behaviour that we’re used to as locals. Addressing people on a first name basis, even in professional contexts, is different to how it worked at home.
“Working with diverse groups you learn about collaboration and team work. You can improve your speaking, and I've learned Aussie slang as well.”
Back home in the Philippines, volunteering is a popular pursuit but is not as organised as in Australia. People might hear news of volunteer opportunities through friends, or if they happened to be part of a campus ministry group, for example. There is more structure around volunteering in Australia, and more focus on looking after individuals’ rights and safety.
Learn about new career options through a variety of volunteer roles
Volunteering has opened Cristina’s eyes to new potential career pathways. Being in her last semester of her Masters in Business and Accounting, Cristina is on track for a career in business services. Now, having volunteered on diverse projects, she has begun to consider other options.
“My background is more of communications/marketing/media, so I’m very people-oriented. But I’m now studying something that's really about numbers. I've been through a lot of volunteering, and I'm opening myself up to social work, or maybe early childhood education. So, I may return to study.”
A chance to catch the eye of potential employers and be recommended for roles
Taking on a range of projects as a volunteer is a great opportunity to develop key professional skills. It can also bring you opportunities through networks.
It was through building connections at the City of Melbourne that Cristina positioned herself well for an upcoming opportunity. When there was an opening for a casual role, Cristina approached her contact in the City of Melbourne for advice. Having worked with Cristina on several volunteer projects, he was happy to provide a recommendation which helped earn Cristina the Student Welcome Program job.
“I realised that volunteering is something that employers actually notice. I think, through my volunteering, and my network with City of Melbourne, really helped me get my job at the airport.”
The Student Welcome Program position showcased Cristina’s people-skills. In this seasonal job, she welcomes new students at the airport visitor’s centre and provided information to help them settle in Melbourne. It was such a rewarding role, giving others the reassurance that Cristina wished she could have had when she arrived.
Cristina has some down-to-earth advice for students new to Melbourne.
“I know it will take up a lot of your time and I think students really, sometimes, want to focus on studies and do work, but I think it's good to have a work/study/life balance. I feel like if you're staying here, you're spending a lot of your time, or a part of your life, in Melbourne, why not be a part of community and reach out and try to be inclusive, try to give back as well?
“I've come to love Melbourne as my second home. It's really more of giving back, and I'd say you have to make time for it. I tell the other students, if there's any opportunity, grab it. It's really good."
Volunteering and Study Melbourne
Check our volunteer page for information about volunteering programs, information sessions and opportunities brought to you by Study Melbourne.