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August 14, 2007 > Volunteering in the Tri-Cities: A Step into a Career

Volunteering in the Tri-Cities: A Step into a Career

By Anne Chan, M.S., MFT

People come for career counseling when they want to make a career change or they need help figuring out a career direction. At times, some are hesitant to make a dramatic career change because they do not know what the new job is like in reality, or they have no idea what the work setting actually feels like. I often encourage my clients to volunteer so they can get a feel for a career, and a taste of the actual work environment. Volunteering also enables them to have valuable contact with professionals in the field.

Although getting paid may not be a perk of volunteering, there are plenty of other good reasons to volunteer your time and energy:

You can make a difference in your community and in other people's lives. There are so many opportunities for volunteering in the Tri-Cities area and beyond -- you don't have to look far from your own backyard to find something interesting to do in a volunteer capacity. For instance, Be A Mentor (www.beamentor.org) is looking for mentors for youth in Fremont and Hayward.

You can get a taste of a job and the work setting. For instance, people who are interested in healthcare professions can look for volunteer opportunities at local hospitals. You will not be able to volunteer as a real doctor or nurse, but you will have the opportunity to observe them up-close and you will get a feel of a hospital workplace. Most hospitals have volunteers who work in a variety of capacities. Washington Hospital in Fremont, for example, has opportunities in the gift shop, Emergency Room, reception desk, and more (http://www.whhs.com/giving/volunteer/Volunteer.htm)

You can get some work experience to put on your resume. If you have never had a real job, volunteering is an invaluable way to get some professional experience under your belt. Many people do not know that you CAN put volunteer experience on your resume. Volunteer positions require many essential skill sets, such as computer programming, office work, graphic design, and accounting. These are important job skills that can be showcased on your resume. Employers like to see that you are responsible, capable, and able to do a job - one way you can prove you have these qualities is by through volunteering.

You can try something different, perhaps something you might never have thought of trying. For instance, at time of this writing, a Masonic Home in Union City is looking for a volunteer to help build a model train village or to be a piano player. If you've always wanted to perform or construct a model train, this might be the place to start!

You can even try out a dream job. Always wanted to be a cop? The City of Newark is currently looking for Reserve Police Officers http://www.ci.newark.ca.us/live/volunteer.html. The city states in its website that volunteer applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Finding the right volunteer position is quite easy. Some organizations (such as hospitals, police departments, nonprofit agencies, and cities) have volunteer departments. You can contact them directly to get information about volunteer opportunities. Most provide orientation and training.

The internet also has a wealth of volunteer matching sites. The following are some great sites to check out:

www.volunteermatch.org
This website matches volunteers with over 40,000 nonprofit organizations. I found 58 volunteer positions within 5 miles of my zip code, ranging from visiting with seniors to being a foster parent for young kittens

www.idealist.org was founded on the vision to connect people, organizations, and resources and to build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives. It contains information on nonprofit and community groups in over a hundred countries worldwide.

www.onebrick.org is unique for its focus on "commitment-free" and social volunteering. This means it brings volunteers together by organizing one-time volunteer events that are followed by a gathering at a local restaurant or cafe where volunteers can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting.

www.servenet.org focuses on youth volunteers and is a global resource for 3.5 million young people in 155 countries around the world. Its mission is to help tackle issues facing local communities.

www.onyourfeetproject.org is another volunteer resource for young people. Its focus is on community involvement and activism.

If time is of concern, you don't have to make a long-term commitment to volunteer. There are many opportunities to volunteer for a one-time event only (www.onebrick.org is especially useful for finding these opportunities). You can also choose to volunteer for only a couple of hours a week. Conversely, if you have some time on your hand, you might want to consider a volunteer position that is almost full-time. There are also many opportunities to be a virtual volunteer. This means you do not have to be at an actual site, or even be available at a specific time. The only requirement is that you have a computer, access to the Internet and a phone.

Volunteering is a great way to try something new, to contribute to the well being of others, or to do something you've always wanted to do. It could even put you on the path to a new career. Give volunteering a chance and do write to me to share an interesting story about your volunteer experiences!


Anne Chan is a registered career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She can be reached at achan@midlabs.com or 510-744-1781.

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