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Volunteering for Work Experience – An Alternative to Study

When Nicole isn’t offering her time to volunteer for community organisations, such as Nelson Tasman Hospice, she is a flight attendant who works for Air New Zealand.

During Covid-19, Nicole found herself with more spare time, as there were fewer flights to work on. It felt like her job suddenly became unstable, and she was battling with thinking she may have to find a new job. Nicole explains that this realisation was a real rough patch for her, and she needed to find something useful to fill in her time. “I decided I wanted to freshen up on my teamwork skills and I wanted to learn anything I could.” Helping the community by volunteering is a value shared by Nicole’s family. Her grandma is a monk, and the family would always volunteer to help the community. Offering her time almost feels like second nature.

“When I moved to New Zealand, I discovered you need to gain experience to get certain jobs. Unlike Vietnam, where it’s all about your academic record and social status. It was hard for me there, as someone who doesn’t like school. So, I found that this is a much easier, and fulfilling way for me to learn on the job and gain work experience to develop my career.”

Offering your time to gain work experience isn’t an opportunity that many young New Zealanders are aware of. “Employers like mine favour those with experience. Volunteering gave me experience talking to clients, answering emails, professionally writing a CV and making heaps of connections that could help in this direction. At the end of the day, a school can teach you the basic skills of the job, but only your employer can teach you to do what they want.”

Volunteering is also a great way to test a new career path. Nicole explains “It’s a great way to find something new if you feel stuck in your current job. While you’re working, it’s often too difficult to think about the possibilities outside of the job you’re doing as you can’t see past the fact you have responsibilities. You’re focused on paying rent and buying groceries, and you often don’t have extra money for more study. Volunteering offers a chance to upskill in any area, while still staying employed. Eventually, you can find what makes you excited to go to work once again. It’s a win-win. While you’re gaining experience, being productive, making connections and learning new skills, you’re helping an organisation to continue providing important services to the community.”

When asked about how she fits volunteering in her schedule, she explains “…you don’t need to give much time; an hour a week is better than nothing.”

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