Volunteering is critical to professional development for a multitude of reasons: you can gain experience in different areas and discover what tasks you enjoy doing; learn about organization, task management, teamwork, and other transferable skills; increase self-confidence and enhance your public speaking skills; develop and broaden your network and make new friends. Engaging in service is also great for your mental health and can combat depression, stress, anger, and anxiety.
When looking for opportunities, finding an organization or role that fits your schedule and temperament might take time. Student storytellers Taryn Walter, Taylor Patton and Jenna Marshall share how writer and storyteller Alicia Ashcroft introduced the idea of working with the Kamloops Film Festival (KFF) as a professional-development-based give-back project and how the experience taught them unique skills that they can use at TRU and in their future careers.
All three storytellers have completed multiple co-op work terms and were looking to put their skills to the test through volunteerism. The KFF provided a wealth of opportunities through special events, creative marketing, volunteer co-ordination and programming planning, all of which support 10 days of international, regional and Indigenous film screenings and community engagement.
They joined the committee led by TRU alum Dušan Magdolen, who had worked with the film festival for over a decade and eventually became KFS executive director. He shared how volunteering had a positive impact on his life, as well as his career.
“Having built a career on volunteering for the KFF committee, I can’t overstate how valuable involvement in this event is. If you’re keen and capable, you’ll be given the opportunity and responsibility and can bolster your resume sooner than someone just working. I have seen many amazing people serve on this committee for a few years and then use that experience to move forward in their careers, perhaps having honed in on what they value and like to do.”
As a post-graduate professional, Ashcroft had spent a number of years volunteering on the events and marketing sub-committees and often expressed how valuable that experience was to her own professional growth.
“Being on the KFF committee was an education unto itself,” Ashcroft said, “I had so many opportunities to connect with filmmakers and special guests, plan and execute events, support marketing plans, and I learned from seasoned volunteers like Dušan, who taught me so much about best practices in the professional realm. As the co-ordinator of the student storytellers, I wanted to create opportunities for the team to grow their professional skill sets in a fun, social and community-centred way.”
Patton, who completed three co-op work terms, said, “I wanted to spice up my resume with fresh experiences, and it was electrifying to apply the skills and tools I learned throughout my marketing and project management degree to the KFF. I encourage other students to say yes to as many experiences as possible to help grow and implement your skills.”
Diversifying your resume and skill set
Volunteer opportunities and paid work experience on your resume can set you apart from the crowd as someone involved in the community. Career and Experiential Learning Chairperson Shawn Read said, “Organizations are always looking for individuals who actively volunteer in the community. Volunteering allows individuals to grow, develop and learn while giving back to the community in which they live. Community connections are often long-lasting and valuable to individual and corporate social networks.”
Experiential Learning Co-ordinator Larry Illes adds, “Many firms say they do value and, in some cases, expect to see volunteerism. The reason they often provide is they work closely with their communities and want to see their employees connected to the people and causes they are part of to give back to the community.”
Broaden and develop your social network
Joining a committee provides limitless opportunities to work alongside people with unique professions and skill sets. While some might dread group projects, working well in a team can benefit educational and professional growth.
Marshall, who completed four co-op work terms, said, “I enjoyed working in a team setting, and seeing how everyone optimizes their strengths within the committee team was insightful. Witnessing our combined efforts come to life throughout the planning process and watching the community show up, participate in the events and love the films was so rewarding.”
Gaining a sense of community
Although the storytellers have lived in Kamloops for the majority, if not their whole lives, they were always looking for new ways to engage with the city. Joining the KFF gave them a sense of pride in their community and got a closer look at what Kamloops has to offer.
Marshall felt proud to work within the community, as it was unlike any experience she had before.
“Working on the KFF committee allowed me to engage in community and connect with some amazing and vibrant people along the way,” she said. “Whether you’re a long-time Kamloopsian or new to this city, volunteering is a great way to get involved and learn more about Kamloops. Not only do you learn a lot about the c
ommunity, but you also get to meet and have great dialogue with participants.”
Patton said the volunteer experience helped her fine-tune her transferable skills, such as leadership, critical thinking and teamwork. “It helped me realize the value of volunteering and how it can positively impact your life professionally and personally.”
Volunteering can be a social experience
The festival was a success and the storytellers were proud to be a part of it. (Not to mention that they had a blast engaging with the other committee members and the attendees.) Magdolen said, “There is so much to be gained by volunteering for non-profit organizations, but volunteering on the Kamloops Film Festival Committee is also a ton of fun!”
Walter, who completed three co-op work terms, noted, “Even though I’ve lived here almost my whole life, I’ve never felt fully connected to the community. Thanks to the KFF, I met so many great people and became more connected with the city of Kamloops. This event inspired me to maintain that momentum, and I have since volunteered for other events around Kamloops!”
Being a part of a committee or group is a great way to network. “You never know who you’ll meet and what opportunities you can uncover when putting yourself out there in the community,” Walter said.
Connect with Career and Experiential Learning to learn more about experiential learning, service learning, and other professional development opportunities on campus and in the community.