Volunteering for Experience

Volunteering can be a really valuable step to take in order to land your first job in the information industry (and it’s great for so many other reasons too). The following post outlines reasons to volunteer, and then it details a list of potential places to volunteer. The list is by no means comprehensive, however it does provide the details of quite a number of places, and some useful links to help you find a volunteer position that’s right for you!

volunteer meme

Why should you volunteer?:

  1. Experience: This is first, because it’s the most obvious, and probably the most important. While hunting for that first job it’s easy to get caught in the vicious loop of needing experience to get a job, but not having a job to get that experience. Volunteering is a fantastic way out of that cycle. When you volunteer you get experience…so volunteer already! “BUT WHERE?!” you ask , there are lots of opportunities if you know where to look (I’ll address this later)
  2. Networking: Volunteering can be an opportunity to network. Networking is important. It’s important for support within the industry, and it’s also important to start building connections within the industry. Networks can be valuable for personal and professional growth.
  3. Taste-test: You might know that the information profession is for you, but you might not know what area you’re most suited to. Volunteering can actually give you the opportunity “try before you buy”…you can suss out different types of work without having to commit to them full time. Even if you end up volunteering somewhere you’d rather not work, you’ll probably end up gaining some valuable experience and transferable skills.
  4. References: Volunteering can be a great place to gain a fabulous reference for your resume. If you’re an excellent volunteer, you might just find yourself an excellent referee.
  5. Have fun: If you volunteer in an area you’re passionate about, chances are you’ll probably end up having a pretty good time of it!
  6. Give back: Volunteering is a great way to contribute to the community, get on it!
  7. It’s good for you: There are all sorts of studies out there that actually show that volunteering can be beneficial to your health…so what is you waiting for?!

Where should you volunteer?: (please note this is focused on Victoria, hopefully I’ll do another list looking elsewhere soon)

  1. 100 Story Building – Website: http://www.100storybuilding.org.au/get-involved/ – About: 100 Story Building is a centre for young writers, if you’re particularly interested in Children’s and Youth services you might consider volunteering here. There’s potential to do a wide range of things: running workshops, tutoring kids, editing and general admin.
  2. The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art – Website: https://www.accaonline.org.au/about/volunteers – About: Volunteering with ACCA could be a really great place to gain a range of experience. If you volunteer here you might end up helping with displays and exhibitions, contributing research projects, assisting at events and helping with general admin.
  3. The Australian Film Institute Research Collection – Website: http://afiresearch.rmit.edu.au/?page_id=125 – About: If you find cinema and television particularly fascinating, you might consider volunteering with AFI. As a volunteer with the AFI research collection you might get the opportunity to participate in collection maintenance and development, assist with special projects and research and perform customer service duties.
  4. The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives – Website: http://alga.org.au/participate/volunteer – About: If you fancy working with archives this might be the place for you. If you volunteer here there are a range of opportunities available to you including indexing and research.
  5. Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village – Website: http://www.flagstaffhill.com/about-us/volunteer-flagstaff-hill/ – About: Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a maritime museum and village dedicated to Victoria’s rich maritime history. If you’re a history buff this might be the place for you. If you volunteer here you could end up helping with research, giving tours or even helping out in the village dressed up in period costume!
  6. Glen Eira Historical Society – Website: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~gehs/volunteers.htm – About: This one is for the history buffs amongst you, volunteer here and you’ll gain valuable experience over a range of areas. You might get to assist with research, conduct interviews, undertake collection maintenance and assist with fundraising.
  7. Heide Museum of Modern Art – Website: http://www.heide.com.au/support/volunteer/ – About: For the art lovers amongst you, you might fancy volunteering at the Heide Museum of Modern Art. Volunteering here you might have the opportunity to be involved in programs, exhibitions, tours and customer service.
  8. Museum Victoria – Website: http://museumvictoria.com.au/about/work-opportunities/volunteering/ – About: Volunteering with Museum Victoria can provide you with some excellent experience over a wide range of areas. You might be able to be involved in collection curation, special exhibitions, or you might even be able to give tours. Volunteer roles with Museum Victoria are in high demand, so if you’re keen to be one of their volunteers make sure you keep your eye on their website for details regarding volunteer intake.
  9. The National Trust – Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/vic/volunteers – If you’re particularly interested in indigenous, natural and historical heritage, The National Trust is the place for you! Keep your eye on their advertised volunteer roles; you could potentially be involved in marketing, exhibitions or special events.
  10. Prahran Mechanics Institute – Website: http://www.pmi.net.au/volunteer.htm – About: The Prahran Mechanics Institute library is a small not-for-profit library specialising in the history of Victoria, so if history is your thing this might be the place for you. If you volunteer here you might end up processing books, indexing books, delivering pamphlets or helping with the newsletter.
  11. Public Record Office Victoria – Website: http://prov.vic.gov.au/about-us/volunteering – About: If you’re looking to work in records and archives then volunteering at PROV is going to look fantastic on your resume. If you volunteer here then you might get the opportunity to help preserve, digitise and transcribe records. PROV do take a limited number of volunteers so keep your eye on the website for information regarding their volunteering information sessions.
  12. The Royal Historical Society of Victoria – Website: http://www.historyvictoria.org.au/support-us/volunteer-with-us – About: If you’re interested in Victorian history and local history, this could be the ideal volunteer role for you. If you volunteer with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria you might get to participate in collection maintenance, admin, research and preparing exhibitions.
  13. The State Library of Victoria – Website: http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/support-us/volunteer-library – About: There are a wide range of possibilities when it comes to volunteering at The State Library of Victoria. Some of the things you might end up doing: helping with programs, indexing collections, assisting with exhibitions and leading tours. Volunteering roles at The State Library are often in high demand, so make sure you keep an eye on the website to find out when they’re recruiting.
  14. The University of Melbourne – Website: http://www.unimelb.edu.au/culturalcollections/projects/projectslist.html – About: The University of Melbourne have a large number of cultural projects that they enlist volunteers to assist with. They list the projects and volunteer role positions on their website. So if you’re interested in research, academic libraries and/or special collections this might be a great option for you. If you volunteer here you might end up working with rare books, cataloguing, working in collection maintenance, assisting with displays and exhibitions.
  15. The Victorian Music Library – Website: http://www.vicmusiclibrary.org.au/latest-news – About: If music is your thing you might consider volunteering at The Victorian Music Library, a music resource centre. To volunteer here it’s probably best if you can read music (although if you can’t and still want to volunteer with them, get in contact and see if they have space for you). If you volunteer here you might end up answering customer queries, performing circulation duties, answering the phone, shelving or cataloguing.

Other Useful Sites:

  1. Go Volunteer – Website: http://govolunteer.com.au – About: Search go volunteer with key words like library/archive/gallery and you’ll find LOADS of relevant opportunities. On this website you’ll find positions at public libraries, toy libraries, with NGO’s, op shops and so more!
  2. Public Libraries Victoria Network – Website: http://www.plvn.net.au/node/100/ – About: on this website you’ll find a number of useful links to various library services and their volunteer policies, you’ll also find some other handy links to places where volunteer positions are advertised.

And Finally…

There are numerous places to volunteer, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Local councils: check the website of your local council, you might find just the right volunteer position for you.
  2. Local schools: sometimes local schools will use volunteers in their libraries, if you’re interested in school libraries it might be worth making a few calls to some schools in your area to see if they will take you on.
  3. Committee: Volunteering on a committee such as the ALIA students and new graduates committee is always a fantastic way to gain some experience.
  4. Think outside the box: be creative, think outside the box, for example if you need customer service experience to help you gain that dream library job, think about volunteering at an op shop, you can learn valuable skills volunteering that can transfer to numerous different jobs.

I hope this helps, if you have any questions about volunteering or any suggestions of places to add to the list you can leave a comment on the blog or email me at emilybeimers@gmail.com.

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2 thoughts on “Volunteering for Experience

  1. Thanks very much for this Emily. Encouragement and a gateway to learning possibilities are really important, particularly when those info mgt jobs are thin on the ground. This situation can lead to disillusionment very easily (that’s where your points 6 and 7 come in). I’d love to hear about more vollie ops, if only to pass them on, because info sharing about this is just as important as hearing about the paid jobs around, if not more so. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is another great place to check in on. It has given me a great learning experience in so many ways, and has been extremely helpful in evening up my sometimes wobbly customer service ledger. Working to clearly defined schedules in a large organisation will also be well regarded by future employers. As I have experienced it, ACMI intakes are not so regular, depending on their needs, but it’s certainly worth a try. Good luck everybody! Jenny

  2. Pingback: Volunteering: The good, bad and ugly list. | New Adult Elizabeth

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