Semester one has come to a close. While many university students are desperate to get some alone time to study for exams, the technical college students are keen to get out into the industry for volunteer opportunities and the rare, but precious, paid work experience.
For some it may be their first time out in the daunting volunteer world, there are so many opportunities over summer and it can be difficult to decide where to allocate your time. In addition to the overwhelm, it can be tempting to disregard volunteer experience due to lack of financial gain.
However, just because its unpaid work, it doesn’t mean that these opportunities cannot offer valuable connections, skills, and potential referrals leading you to role you desire. Therefore, these opportunities must be treated just as well as paid experiences. In fact, it is worthwhile to remember that volunteer organisers are much more appreciative of their staff than some employers, who can see their delegates as disposable.
This is the perfect time to make a great impression with the following tips:
Dress to impress …
When contacting the organisation and discussing your suitability, it is essential you determine the dress/uniform requirements. The event may require costumes, promotional t-shirts, elegant serving attire and appropriate footwear. Ask as many questions as you can to determine what you will need to supply, and what the organisation will supply. At this time it is also good to check if you need to supply equipment such as notepads, waiters friends, cameras etc. Finally, check if there are appropriate change room facilities and storage for your items, including personal/valuables. If there are some expectations that you feel you cannot meet, it may be best to move onto another opportunity.
Avoid overcommitting …
With the abundance of opportunities available, it is easy to sit down and hit APPLY on several positions, and offer your availability all summer. The problem in overcommitting is we risk burnout and fail to meet our responsibilities, which then leads to bad references and weak reputation.
Select 3-5 opportunities over the period you are willing, and able, to volunteer. If you are employed casually, check with your manager or rostering team to see if there will be increased demand over the Christmas/New Year holidays. Use a diary to pre-plan your volunteer opportunities, and if any clashes arise, they can be managed immediately.
Be punctual …
This is probably self explanatory, however, it is vital to your integrity as a professional in the industry.
Be reliable, accurate and punctual. Make necessary phone calls as soon as possible, set a reminder in your diary to action this in a timely manner. Arriving at least 15 minutes prior to a scheduled shift will enable you to debrief with the event organiser and ask questions concerning your shift and responsibilities.
Be prepared for anything …
It is easy to schedule a volunteer appointment and then forget about it until you arrive for your assigned duties.
To make a valuable impression, it is essential you do your research on the event and arrive prepared with the event aims, and general information about the event in mind. Jump on the website and download a program; figure out who are the key speakers and and important crowd drawers. Try to also get your hands on a map or floor-plan to work out where the closest public transport arrives, where the bathrooms and emergency exits are located.
Additional information worth knowing includes:
- Can tickets be pre-purchased, are they available at the gate?
- How much are tickets?
- Are refunds available?
- Where is the registration desk located?
- Are there First Aid Officers onsite? What emergency services are available?
- Event duration
- Event sponsors
Get your friends involved …
The more the merrier! Invite your friends and family to get involved and support your work by volunteering with you.
Maybe your classmate is awesome at constructing things, or your colleague is great at customer relations, or your sister is a whiz at team leadership? Bringing in additional volunteers will help to fill all roles, gives your outside circle an insight into your passion, it makes the work fun, and ultimately get the job done.
In addition to the many-hand-make-light-work practice, the event organisers will greatly appreciate your assistance in sourcing volunteers.
Refrain from cancelling at the last minute …
This could almost be coupled with overcommitting, but it is important to ensure you are not leaving organisations without valuable hands-on-deck.
It is difficult to source volunteers, and management can be very stressful for the organisers. They aim to be friendly and obliging as you are donating your time, please respect their work and your reputation by getting in contact as soon as possible if you cannot fulfil your volunteer duties.
Make a phone call to the volunteer organiser, if you have these details (and you really should have them from first contact), and apologise for the inconvenience this may cause them. If they are unable to be reached, be sure to leave a voice message with your contact details, and send an email to be sure they get the information.
Get Enthusiastic and Have Fun!
Event Volunteering is a wonderful experience, and exposure to some sites and scenes that you will not get from standard delegate attendance. Backstage, operations, sales and marketing activities, event staging, bump in and bump out; all these components of the event industry are available when volunteering, and incredibly valuable experiences, so make the most of it and have a great time!