Volunteerism opens doors to a better career
VSO Bahaginan international volunteers found a way of making a greater contribution and developing a winning career strategy through volunteerism.
People know that volunteerism is an expression of lofty ideals; but only a few know that it’s one of the best career-defining experiences, especially for those who are in transition and in search of new work environments. Volunteering enables the job seeker to gain valuable professional experience and establish contacts in a new field. It is an excellent way to make a difference while advancing your own career objectives.
"It is a win-win situation," said Lynn Berger, an American career coach and author on the subject. "You feel good by volunteering and learn about yourself at the same time." This is the experience of hundreds of Filipino professionals who have volunteered overseas through VSO Bahaginan.
VSO Bahaginan is a development organization committed to fighting poverty and disadvantage through a wide range of volunteering development programs, including international volunteering and national volunteering. It recruits, matches, trains and sends skilled Filipino professionals to work as volunteers in over 40 developing countries, mostly Asia and Africa.
Two of VSO Bahaginan’s Filipino volunteers who enhanced their careers through volunteerism are Marilyn Canta, an associate professor at the College of Arts and Letters of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, and Ela Sarmago, supervisor of the Program Coordination and Network Division at the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA).
Canta was a volunteer librarian in Mozambique for a year, from June 2007 to June 2008. Being a volunteer, according to Canta, is something out of the ordinary.
“To a certain degree, you realize that you're trying to achieve similar goals with other people but are faced with similar problems — a lack of human and material resources, low level of skills, corruption, etc. Then, you begin to empathize with them and learn to appreciate their efforts to change their worlds,” Canta said.
Canta developed a lot of values essential for the growth of her career through her experience as a volunteer: tolerance, empathy, humility, and what it means to work with others.
“Being able to relate to an entirely new group of people different from what I have been accustomed to and establishing friendships with them can only contribute to making us better and mature human beings,” Canta added.
Canta also cited reasons why she thinks a company is more likely to choose a job seeker with a volunteer experience over someone who has none: “I think I'd recognize the ‘sense of service’ in someone who's had volunteer experience. The ‘sense of service’ means a commitment and capacity to give off one's fullest to a job because it contributes to a ‘greater good’,” Canta explained. Aside from this, a volunteer, she said, also has leadership qualities and the ability to work well with individuals. “He/she is most likely broad-minded and receptive to new ideas,” she added.
The acquisition of these traits, among other reasons, is why Canta strongly recommends volunteering to everyone. “It’s a good experience to encounter new cultures and broaden one’s horizons. Moving out of a ‘routine/regular’ job, even if only temporarily, can also open up new perspectives on looking at the world and invite you to evaluate your own goals in life,” she said.
Going through the same career enriching experience brought about by volunteering, Sarmago was a national volunteering adviser in Mongolia from April to October 2005. She said that VSO opened her eyes to the many things that could be done in the spirit of volunteerism.
“For some time, I’ve been thinking of doing volunteer work for me to better appreciate what international volunteers experience during their placements. An opportunity to do that was presented to me by VSO,” said Sarmago, who volunteers because of three things: to improve one’s self, help others and learn.
Six months in her volunteer placement was enough for Sarmago to reap almost as much benefits for herself as the organization is getting. Faced with a mission she believed in, she is grateful for the challenges and the great responsibilities that came with volunteering, giving her the flexibility to do things like conducting an impromptu workshop. Volunteerism, she said, brings to the front traits that a company is looking for in an employee such as the grace to accept additional work, not being after monetary gains, and the wider exposure of work experience for a volunteer who had operated outside his usual range of work.
As individuals who volunteer start to see positive benefits to their professional and personal development, they get a bigger sense of achievement. They learn great respect for and understanding of other cultures, become passionate about helping others and doing good, while boosting their experience, skills and career prospects and receiving incentives in the form of certificates, rewards, qualifications, and better jobs. All these prove that one really gets what he gives and that goodwill truly begets good results.
This is actually good news for a lot of mid-career professionals who are stuck, unhappily, in their jobs thinking it is too late to transform their careers. Volunteerism can be the key and Filipino volunteers of VSO Bahaginan have proven it. To date, nearly 500 Filipinos have been sent overseas as volunteers. Meanwhile, over 200 volunteers have returned and are now following better career tracks and living more meaningful lives.
Be a VSO Bahaginan volunteer and make a difference in people’s lives – especially your own.
Visit www.vsobahaginan.org.ph to find out more about volunteering with VSO.