The current pandemic has changed the way we do nearly everything. A major change has been in how young people gain valuable workforce experience. From internships to volunteering opportunities, almost everything has gained a virtual component. For this post, I’ll focus on one of my favorite newly digitized experiences: virtual volunteering. However, these tips can apply for virtual internships and job-shadowing as well.
Virtual volunteering has been around for years but in recent times, it has become ever more crucial in our changing world. Volunteering is a perfect way to gain experience in a variety of fields, and it is a wonderful way to contribute to the overall betterment of society. As a homeschool grad, volunteer experiences of all kinds were valuable in shaping my character and my leadership skills. Throughout high school, I volunteered at a community daycare, an online tutoring program, and also served as a volunteer peer mentor. In college, I’ve virtually volunteered as a peer mentor and as a tutor in my community. If there’s one thing I know from experience, it’s that before you can obtain a virtual volunteering opportunity, you have to know where to begin. Below are my top five tips for getting started with virtual volunteering.
#1: Find the right place to volunteer virtually.
An important first step in finding and obtaining a virtual volunteering opportunity is finding the right place to volunteer. With so many organizations short-staffed due to the pandemic, it can be hard to choose which organization to work with virtually. Both VolunteerCrowd.com and NSHSS partner, United Planet can match you with organizations that align with your goals and interests, as well as Idealist.org and VolunteerMatch. Keep in mind that smaller nonprofits within your own community are also a good place to search. As a nonprofit founder myself, I love bringing on volunteers from pretty much any field, and I know that a lot of other organizations feel the same. Key tips for finding the right place to volunteer is by connecting with the leadership, finding out more about the volunteer projects offered, learning more about what the organization strives to do for the community, and researching the experiences of other volunteers and the amount of time that is to be invested.
#2: Choose a project that aligns with your interests and passion.
After you’ve found a nonprofit or organization that is a perfect match, the next step is to narrow down a specific project based on your interests. Keep in mind that nonprofits normally need volunteers with various skill backgrounds. For example, even if an organization specializes in healthcare for the elderly, the organization would probably need marketing volunteers, inventory volunteers, etc. Narrow down what you like doing, what your passion is, and then find a project within the organization of your choice that can “check all those boxes.”
#3: Be open to advice and constructive criticism.
Once you’ve started volunteering, it’s good to continue to assess your progress and ask around for advice. Even though you are helping out the organization by offering your services free of charge, that same virtual volunteering experience can also beef up your resume and improve your leadership skills in preparation for the workforce. Volunteering is mutually beneficial, meaning it benefits both you and the organization when it’s done right. Virtual volunteering allowed me to gain experience in leadership, improved my work ethic, and showed me a lot of areas character-wise where improvement was needed. To make the most out of your first few weeks as a virtual volunteer learning the ropes, get advice from those who have more experience, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be open to suggestions for improvement. Your performance in volunteering, even virtually, can open doors for invaluable letters of recommendation, crucial connections, organization-wide trust, and long-lasting friendships for years to come.
#4: Look to make connections.
Just because the experience is virtual doesn’t mean that you cannot make useful connections. Use this time to get to know the people you work under, connect with fellow volunteers, and learn from the experience of those who run the nonprofit or organization. Some of the best of friendships can begin where you least expect it. When I started to volunteer for NSHSS via Collegiate Council, I began to get acquainted with some amazing fellow members. Over the past few months since joining Collegiate Council, I have come to know a lot of amazing fellow members who share the drive to change the world. Look for ways to get to know those who you volunteer along-side, and maintain those contacts when you are ready to move on to the next step in life career-wise.
#5: Have fun!
Don’t let yourself fall into monotony. Continue to do what you do because you love it and because you have a passion for it. Don’t get complacent either, always look for ways to grow and do better. Allow yourself the pleasure of making friends, learning from mistakes and experience, and using the virtual volunteer opportunity to make you a more well-rounded individual. When done right, volunteer experiences, especially virtual ones, will provide you with access to lots of new people with diverse perspectives, career-experience, improve social skills, and it is a great way to build character and spend your time doing something that will help make the world a better place. It’s a win-win
Nasiyah Isra-Ul is a homeschool graduate, a current sophomore at Liberty University, an NSHSS Collegiate Council Member, and the founder and CEO of Canary Academy Online Inc. She loves working within her community to advocate for awareness on a plethora of topics, including homeschooling, diversity in history, and equity in online education. She enjoys mentoring peers, reading, volunteering in her community, working with young children, and is currently studying to be an early childhood educator. She is also a $10,000 Be More Fund grant recipient.
Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career, and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events, scholarships, college fairs, internships, career and leadership programs, partner discounts, and more. Discover what makes NSHSS worth it to student members and how you can get involved.
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