What NOT to do when volunteering

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Having the proper mindset is essential when volunteering. To get the most out of the experience, you should understand that volunteering is service. Yes, there are a lot of benefits to doing it, but it is more about the spirit of giving – providing your time and effort for free so that others may benefit.

Here are 8 don’ts you should remember:

  1. Don’t be overconfident at the interview

    Some people think that it’s “in the bag” even before they are interviewed. Just because it’s a volunteer position doesn’t mean that they’ll take in just anyone. Approach the interview the same way you would any job interview. Come prepared, arrive on time, know something about the organization you are applying to (and have a great answer ready when they ask why you want to volunteer for that specific organization), provide any required documentation and be formal and courteous.

  2. Don’t say yes when you do not have time

    There is a tendency to overcommit when you are passionate for a cause. Volunteer work should not rule your life. Remember that you have your family life and your professional life as well. Burdening yourself with too much work will eventually lead to slip-ups in any of these areas. You may start making mistakes at work or forgetting certain commitments due to fatigue or stress. Overcommitting can lead to burn-out so make sure to manage your time wisely.

  3. Don’t regard the work as trivial

    Volunteer work is important. For many organizations, volunteers are essential to make their programs work. Without volunteers, programs that help the needy, provide comfort for the afflicted, enlighten young minds and generally make the community a better place will not be possible. Always provide quality work. Be reliable. Also, be cheerful and enthusiastic. These are the elements that will make your contribution count.

  4. Never risk your safety

    Workplaces in Canada observe safety standards. It is important to be aware of them. This is usually part of the orientation session before a volunteer can start working. Volunteer managers are aware of the work limits for volunteers but in case you are assigned a task that may be potentially dangerous for you, know that you have the right to refuse it.

  5. Don’t choose the cushy jobs

    It is reasonable to ask for jobs that are in line with your skills and abilities but there is nothing more annoying to volunteer managers than volunteers who demand only comfortable jobs or worse, those that bring them to the limelight. Remember that volunteering is a service. It’s not about you. Learn to be open and flexible. That’s how you will learn new skills and ideas.

  6. Don’t be a complainer

    No workplace is perfect. There will always be something that you will find less than ideal. Most non-profit organizations operate on limited budgets, which is why they make the most out of volunteer services. The thing to remember here is this: Providing your services for free does not give you the right to be demanding. However, suggesting ways to improve any aspect of a program is a proactive move. Communicate suggestions tactfully and respectfully. And don’t feel bad when your suggestion is not carried out. There may be considerations that you have overlooked.

  7. Don’t demand rewards

    Many organizations provide special perks to volunteers like discounts, small freebies like t-shirts or snacks and other things. Also, some may offer volunteers paid positions when openings become available. Other incidental benefits to volunteering are gaining a reference (one who could recommend you when you are applying for a job), enlarging your network, and job experience. All these are possible, but are not guaranteed. Don’t complain or bad mouth an organization when the program does not meet all your needs and expectations.

  8. Don‘t keep to yourself

    Networking is one of the best rewards of volunteering. Talk to the people around you and connect. It’s your chance to build your circle, socialize, improve your English and small talk skills, and ease into the Canadian work culture. If you are shy and talking to people does not come naturally to you, take it slow. Perhaps observe other volunteers first. Talk to your supervisor and other volunteers, even just to ask some questions. Stick with friendly people. You’ll get the hang of it no time.

Sources: 10 tips for being the best volunteer you can be, Tails; What makes a good volunteer? ELI Abroad; and 4 easy ways to become a better volunteer, Hannah Trull, Nonprofit hub. All retrieved July 3, 2018.

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