Counselling and career development

Career research through volunteering

You may be wondering how volunteering is related to your studies and your career. We would encourage responsible volunteering where the organisation and community that you are supporting benefit. You also have the opportunity to apply and further develop your skills and knowledge as a student. Your volunteer work links to your career vision and planning: before you volunteer, think about where you would want to invest your effort.

Why volunteer?

Volunteering will help you to:

  • figure out whether a specific field of work is for you or not;
  • find out information about a specific field;
  • connect with others and maintain relationships;
  • network with others in your field of interest.

Before you volunteer

Some questions to think about:

  • Which organisations or community would benefit from my skills and knowledge?
  • How would this organisation or community contribute to my career vision?
  • What conduct is expected of a professional in this organisation and in my future career?
  • What are you hoping to gain from your volunteer activities?

Your volunteer work could lead to other opportunities, so it is important to treat it professionally: keep to your commitment, communicate when you cannot volunteer and update your portfolio with examples of what you have learnt and achieved. As a volunteer, you are already working as a professional – you need to conduct yourself as you would conduct yourself in a work environment. As you are volunteering, you are building your reputation (your “brand”): you would not want to build a reputation as an exploiter or as an unreliable worker.

Your volunteer environment will help you to develop what is valued in professional environments. This includes punctuality, problem-solving and effective communication. In this sense, volunteering contributes to your development as a unique graduate: one who has subject-specific knowledge and an understanding of professional workplace behaviour. The one thing to remember about volunteering is that your conduct needs to be accountable and ethical. It is important that your work within the community is done with the utmost respect.

Where can I find volunteer opportunities?

Identify volunteer opportunities in your area through conversations with members of your community. The GreaterGoodSA website at will further help you to identify volunteer opportunities in your community that are related to your interests.

Volunteering helps you to contribute to a community and learn valuable skills. Volunteering will allow you to clarify your interests in terms of helping others and expand and strengthen your network.

Activity: Identify volunteer opportunities

Make a list of the organisations that you would want to contact with regards to exploring volunteer opportunities.

  • What are you hoping to gain from your volunteer experience?
  • What can you contribute to an organisation?

Further resources for volunteering

Volunteering and your career (MP3)
Volunteering and your career  (MP3)
Find out more about how volunteering can form an important part of your career development and contribute to your skills development and growing a network.

Last modified: 2019/02/27