There are lots of reasons why you might have decided to become a volunteer with Babywearing International – giving back to others, making new friends, and gaining new experiences. If you are seeking new job opportunities or if you’re a stay at home caregiver thinking about eventually joining the workforce, volunteering can be a great way to develop valuable skills that will make you a superior candidate. I recently had a series of interviews where I ended up talking more about my volunteer experience more than my employment history, which is what got me thinking about the role my volunteer work plays in showing others what kind of person I am and why I should get the job.
We live in a culture that sometimes treat volunteering as a frivolous activity for people with ample resources and time. It’s easy to get into the mindset of downplaying your own contribution, ability, and worth. No matter what role you play in your group – whether you’re serving on the board of your local chapter, or if you help out occasionally at the welcome table, you are playing a vital role in serving your community. The fact that you decided to volunteer reflects your dedication and commitment to a greater purpose, something any employer would be pleased to see. The time you invest into your organization is also time you spent investing into yourself.
The work I do with BWI places me in front of all kinds of people, not just at our meetings but also through our outreach classes and events. I now have experience teaching in large and small groups as well as work a table at a community fair. All these experiences provided opportunities for me to develop my communication and leadership skills as well as learn to deal with difficult people in various situations. Think back to all the various activities you’ve been a part of, what stories do you have? Do you have a story like “Here’s a time I faced a challenging customer service encounter” or “Here’s a situation that required my ability to organize and plan at the last second”? Having a strong story bank built on my volunteering experience means I always have a story that demonstrate my quality and character.
My favorite kind of outreach event to work is a community fair.
In our area we have several throughout the year that are focused on family, children, and babies. What I love about these events is how every single person who comes by is a new opportunity for me to practice my pitch, or how I can convey the most information about our chapter and our purpose in the shortest amount of time and the fewest number of words. Over time, I’ve developed a quick pitch that talks about our chapter, our meetings, lending library, scholarship program, and a final hook to get that person talking about themselves. I can get all that out in just over a minute. In the same vein, I also have a pitch that I use to introduce myself where I talk about what I do and why I do it.
When someone asks what you do, rather than telling them WHAT you do, it’s more important to make sure they know WHY you do it. Think about why you get up in the morning, pack up your kids or your teaching gear, drive to the meeting location, and spend the next 2-3 hours working the meeting. If you do work behind the scenes, think about why you devote hours to planning, organizing, and coordinating various events and projects. Perhaps you want to share your passion for textiles and fabrics, you want to bolster the community that your group built, or you want to develop existing skills like project management or public speaking.
Why you do something is generally more interesting than what you actually do. You work the welcome table because you believe it’s important for every new attendee to have a warm welcome and a positive first experience. You are an educator because you believe in helping people learn a new skill. You serve on the local board because you want to play a direct role in how your chapter operates. You are involved in one of the national committees because you want to affect how the national organization operates. No matter what your role is, the most important thing to keep in mind is WHY you do what you do.
For me, I volunteer with Babywearing International because I believe in supporting new parents and caregivers by teaching them the tools and skills that will encourage positive interactions with their baby and enrich their early years together. Just try to imagine how big my interviewer’s eyes became when I dropped that line. She was nowhere close to adding a child to her family but she was already sold on babywearing. More importantly, she was sold on me.
* Donna Chin is the Chair of Education for BWI of Hampton Roads. She is sorry for the things she said when she was hungry. The opinions expressed are truly her own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BWI National or any of its affiliates.