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Volunteering: Is working for free worth it?

Posted by: NIC Online Date: January 29, 2021 Category: Blog Employment

A couple of weeks ago, I bumped into a colleague who works next door. She asked me how I was doing, we started chatting, and I mentioned some volunteering activities I am involved in. “Oh, do you do all that work for free? Why would you do that?” She replied with a disapproving grimace. Her comment made me wonder; is volunteering (working for free) worth it?

Volunteering is working for free worth it

In some countries, volunteering is not standard practice but rather perceived as a way organizations get away with unpaid labour. 

I was born in a country that does share this perception. There, volunteering is a requirement you need to fulfill by law to get your bachelor’s degree. To get mine, I volunteered for an organization that advocates for quality content in the media and I have to say my volunteering activities were a world away from what I wanted to do at the time.

Let’s fast-track to February 2015. I was feeling over the moon because I had just passed my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam and I decided to volunteer for the Project Management Institute to keep my knowledge fresh. One month later, the funding of my project got cut, and I was laid-off. It was from that moment on that my views about volunteering start changing.

Volunteering helped me grow my social networks. 

During the few months I was in between jobs, I met lots of new people and forged meaningful relationships. These connections balanced my daily routine and helped me stay positive about my job hunting activities. Since I joined, I have celebrated many happy occasions with my team: New jobs and promotions, growing families, PMP exam successes, and community milestones and achievements.

I have also developed new skills. 

In the two years I have been volunteering, I have contributed to the success of several conferences and learned tons about Volunteer Management and Administrative Operations. During my tenure, I have been promoted twice, and I currently volunteer as the Director of Administrative Operations for the Government Community, PMI Southern Ontario Chapter. Last but not least, I am leading the delivery of a high-profile Project Management Agile Bootcamp (Stay tuned!).

I have gained more “Canadian experience” and professional references. 

You might have heard that you need “Canadian experience” to get a job in Canada. Well, volunteering also offers this benefits for Newcomers like you and I. My experience with this organization has given me lots of exposure to different management styles because we rotate who the leader is for each project. It goes without saying that I have added this valuable experience to my resume, and let me tell you, volunteering is highly regarded in Canada. Thanks to these volunteering activities, I have several professional references I could call on when taking the next step in my professional career.

It is true! Volunteering makes you happier! 

For me, volunteering gives me another opportunity to grow professionally. Why do I say “another”? Well, I also get that satisfaction from my paying job. However, things can occasionally get a bit rocky, and it is just how life goes sometimes. When this happens, my volunteering activities bring balance to my life. Between my job and volunteering activities, I get twice the amount of “Great job!” and “You’re the best!” comments, and that is just awesome.

So, is volunteering (a.k.a. working for free) worth it? Absolutely!

Originally written by Arcelia Camacho, republished in January 2021

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