Volunteers (Always) Wanted: A Personal Touch

“Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”.  –Anonymous

We hear about it all too often: “get out there and volunteer, it’s a great way to build your resume”.  However, most of us who have volunteered can say it is so much more than resume building. Without volunteers, some organizations would not be able to function and meet people’s needs as efficiently.

But how does the individual benefit from volunteering?  Glad you asked! Volunteering provides a sense of self-worth; it is very fulfilling to know you are helping people provide a service. It also allows you to be exposed to new situations that expand your people skills, knowledge base, and perspective.  Having volunteered in a hospital, I now have enough understanding of day-to-day operations that when my instructors teach about hospital-relevant topics, I can relate.

Why is that important?  When the day comes that you are finally a dietitian, physician, physician assistant, or pretty much in any profession, you will find yourself ahead of the game. For instance, volunteering can ensure that your first day in a hospital will not be day 1 of your internship, medical school, etc.  Imagine entering a patient’s room: what is the first thing you notice? Maybe it is the smell or the sight of someone suffering. Whatever it is you notice, it is a lot to process and it is much better to be the deer in head lights as a volunteer than as a professional.  Personally, I found it very difficult to be around people suffering.  I know I will spend a considerable amount of time in a hospital during my career, but now I also know that it is not where I want to settle in and grow as a dietitian.  The experience allowed me to narrow down my vision of the future. Volunteering is an excellent way to get a feel for what you will be doing as a professional and can help shape your path.

We cannot ignore that volunteering is also important for resume building.  Someone who has volunteered in their student club, held a position in the club, volunteered at a hospital, at WIC or a similar clinic, and/or in their community (maybe through Community Nutrition) is much better-rounded in the field of nutrition than someone who has only done what is required in classes.   This well-roundedness is something all professions look for and want in their programs.  It also helps you have confidence in yourself to take on new and challenging positions.

One final point to make about volunteering: being a good volunteer can land you a job! What does it mean to be a good volunteer? Be on time. Be prepared to lend a hand in all sorts of situations. Be positive. Predict where you will be needed, and be ready to take on the responsibility.  For example, if I saw a nurse doing something I could do, I would offer to take it off his/her hands. This leaves the impression that I am here to help, learn, and grow rather than just observe. In my experience, if you volunteer at a location that frequently takes on volunteers, the staff tends to be wary of the amount of help they get from each individual (maybe they had a bad experience with other volunteers). Setting yourself apart and showing how dedicated you are will really have a positive impact. After I volunteered in the Dietary Office for a year, there was a position opening up and every time I worked in the office, the staff would encourage me to apply for that position.  This is very common in a volunteer position when you really apply yourself and show that you take volunteering as seriously as a real job.

I invite you to let us know where you have volunteered and how your experiences have helped shape your path!  Until next time, strive for greatness!

Written by Sally Saleh. BIO HERE

Part of our Featured Writers series student writers independent of the dedicated Food Digest team have an interest to write and share their thoughts. If you would be interested in writing an article for Food Digest, let us know!

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