To some it means opportunity, to others it means unpaid work.
For those of us in public relations, it can and should mean much more.
I love to volunteer. I’ve met best friends, tested my limits, realized life goals, made it through challenging times, and even found partners through volunteer opportunities.
That said, I understand the reluctance. On those early Saturday mornings following a night out, I’d much rather be sleeping. Working for free when so much else calls is tough. Volunteering is important to our field. I promise that it can enrich your life. I hope the following will inspire you to add volunteering to your fall to-do list.
- Learn new skills
This summer, I volunteered for the Halifax Jazz Festival. Although most of my tasks were familiar, some were completely new. One in particular was scanning tickets. I had never used a scanner system before and I was only been given a thirty second “how-to”. I was nervous but, I did it! Skills learned, and experience gained.
- Connections, connections, connections!
I’m not suggesting you go into every volunteer gig looking for a co-op but I do suggest you try to meet new people. Ask individuals what they do, how they ended up working for the organization, what advice they may have for a student, etc. Some of the best advice and support I’ve received has come from connections made through volunteering. Put on your extrovert hat and chitchat!
- Manage those hours, minutes and seconds
As public relations students we are often great at managing our time. However, I challenge you to fill that calendar a bit more. Throw in a meeting between classes, test your limits by completing homework on the bus, or attend an event after work. Sure it may be exhausting, but this is PR, get used to it!
- Build a profile
Are you an event rock star? Or is social media your lifeblood? Maybe you haven’t quite found your niche yet. In any case, what better way to gain experience and develop skills than to find a relevant volunteer gig? It will be time well spent when the next co-op employer asks you about your social media management experience or when the big bad world comes calling post-graduation.
- Discover new organizations and needs
Our community is diverse, be it the Mount, the greater HRM, or beyond. This means there are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities available. You can volunteer for music festivals, to fight disease, to help those in need, or to mentor the youth of tomorrow. Volunteering broadens your worldview, allows you to discover your community, and that will make you a better public relations professional.
- You have knowledge to offer
As a public relations student, you have much insight to offer. You have knowledge most organizations would love to have, especially for free. Share it! You understand your audience and that can help an organization tremendously!
- The feeling
Everyone’s opinion of fun differs, but my idea of fun is seeing a kid smile at an artist in the Public Gardens, or a family cry with happiness arriving at their new home. Or maybe it’s the feeling that comes with knowing hundreds of people have made an outdoor concert happen despite a thunderstorm. Volunteering isn’t something you do because you have to, you do it because you want to. Above all else, you do it for the feeling.
Trying something new is worth the unpaid work and volunteer training (or lack thereof). You’ll challenge yourself, you’ll learn, and you’ll grow. I hope to see you there.