As an international student in Australia, you have the option to volunteer on your student visa. When it comes to volunteering for students, the opportunities are endless. There are various volunteer opportunities in Australia, such as being a student ambassador, providing companionship and social support to the elderly and people with disabilities, or volunteering with animals in shelters. If you’re interested in environmental conservation, you can get involved in Greening Australia. For a detailed breakdown of where to get involved in volunteering and how it works with your student visa, check out our guide to the top 10 places to volunteer in Australia.
How volunteering helps your career
Volunteering is a great way to get an introduction to the industry, sector or particular career path that you’re interested in. It can also allow you to pursue your passion outside your studies, learn more about the organisation you’d like to work with, or even lead to finding new areas of interest. Plus, it offers the chance to get engaged with your new community in Australia.
Volunteering also happens to be a fantastic addition to your resume, and may even boost your chances of landing a job. Here’s how.
Volunteering offers the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, industry experts and potential employers. There are plenty of unadvertised or “hidden” jobs out there; finding these leads hinges on developing an effective network, and volunteering is a great way of forging connections. Through volunteering, you can gain experience in your industry and meet people who may be aware of job openings in your field. As well, your supervisor could potentially turn out to be a great reference who can vouch for your performance in the role.
2) Skills development
Volunteering boosts many of the skills that employers look for. Through volunteering, you can learn and develop skills such as time management, teamwork, communication and leadership, which can add value to your resume when you get around to applying for a job.
3) Unexpected benefits
From a professional perspective, volunteering helps build your confidence – which is no doubt incredibly valuable when you’re going through the job application process. Volunteering can also add meaning and purpose to your life, provide a boost to your self-esteem, improve your wellbeing by helping relieve stress, expand your social circle, improve your relationships and strengthen your connection to the community.
All of this might seem great on paper, but you may be thinking, ‘Can volunteering count as work experience?’ or ‘How do I go about turning my volunteering experience into something I can include on my resume?’ We chatted to a graduate who did just that.
From volunteering to a full-time job: Fazil’s story
Insider Guides sat down with Fazil Mohammed, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology from Swinburne University. Fazil shared how he adapted to graduating during a global pandemic, dealing with rejection, and how he eventually found a full-time job. He is currently working as a Service Desk Analyst with DuluxGroup.
“I graduated in July 2020. Initially I felt that it wasn’t the right time to graduate,” he says. “The process of finding a job amidst the pandemic was daunting, but I didn’t lose hope. Instead, I figured out what went wrong after every rejection and I strengthened my resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. A big contributor to helping me gain experience and network was volunteering.”
Fazil is no stranger to volunteering in Melbourne. From actively engaging with Study Melbourne and other international student groups to volunteering his time with charities and not-for-profit organisations, he truly has done it all.
“Through volunteering, I had the opportunity to collaborate with external teams and meet professionals from various industry backgrounds,” he says. “Some of the roles I have held include Student Ambassador for Study Melbourne and Executive Consultant for the Council of International Students Australia. We planned and organised events and workshops for the development of the student community in Australia.”
Applying your volunteering experience to job applications
At first it may seem that some of the skills attained while volunteering are broad and hard to tweak to specific jobs. You may be wondering how to make your volunteering position relevant when you’ve worked in a completely different role to the one you’re applying for. Fazil says it’s all about showing how certain skills from other fields add value to your current field – it’ll just require some brainstorming.
“The Project Global Citizen Scholarship was a cultural competency accelerator program where I had to work in teams with students from different nationalities. I learned about the working culture in Australia and developed my cultural competence. This helped me develop a workplace etiquette that’s specific to working in Australia,” he says. “[As well], it provided an opportunity to collaborate with students from different nationalities, thereby developing our cross-cultural communication skills. These skills proved to be really important and relevant to applying for a job and also something that is often not taught in a course like IT.
“[Overall], these volunteering roles helped to develop my interpersonal skills such as teamwork, communication and problem solving, and there were also circumstances where I led teams, thereby developing my leadership skills.”
Fazil says it’s important to highlight these skills in your cover letter and resume but also to tap into your volunteering network and connections.
“I utilised the skills that I had developed and refined through these various roles in my resume and cover letter,” he says. “I was also fortunate that I had some great networks that were able to be character references for my job applications.”
The process of applying for volunteering roles is similar to that of job applications, says Fazil. He shared with us how volunteering helped him tackle some of his job interview questions.
“The situations I was exposed to played an important role during my job hunt, which helped me in terms of my confidence in tackling interviews,” he says. “Specifically, I think my exposure to volunteering helped me narrate and answer behavioural questions during interviews.”
Why you should volunteer as an international student
Finally, Fazil shared his views on the overall value of volunteering for students.
“Volunteering is an opportunity that introduces you to the community and allows you to understand the needs of the people and the business around you,” he says. “It shows you take initiative and helps you to build references by introducing you to a wider network of people.
“Get involved as much as possible. Always remember that our pathway will be affected by countless unknown events, but be prepared when opportunities arise; accept that sometimes your best effort won’t result in the desired outcome. Celebrate your own successes.”