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How volunteering helped me
by TeenHelp January 3rd 2019, 04:25 AM

How volunteering helped me

I have been disabled since I was 17 years old and I've recently decided to go back to work. Due to being disabled from such a young age I don't have a lot of paid work experience. This caused a lot of anxiety about looking for work and even more anxiety when I started questioning if I would be prepared when I got a job.

One of the biggest fears I had was that I wouldn't get any call backs because I had no experience. However, I chose to list my volunteer experience on my resume and that seemed to help get me some call backs. From talking to people in my life that help with hiring, volunteer work can look good on a resume. Paid experience is always good to have but if you are in my shoes sometimes you have to work with what you have.

Over the years I dedicated a lot of time to volunteering. I started volunteering with TeenHelp in 2009 or 2010. I started out with TeenHelp because, at the time, it was easier for me to dedicate time to volunteer in an online atmosphere. I struggled a lot with off site volunteer work due to social anxiety. In 2013, I decided to take the plunge and try some off site volunteer work; my anxiety was slightly better and I figured it would be the best time to try. I decided to volunteer with an organization that helps children deal with the loss of a loved one. This particular volunteer role is probably one of my favorite offline roles. In 2016 I decided to try out being a crisis counselor and I was able to do that for about a year.

My new job requires me to handle a lot of confidential information and as a volunteer I learned all about confidentiality because I was dealing with things like HIPPA, which is what doctors practice in regards to privacy, and I was able to learn a lot about the importance of confidentiality via TeenHelp. Within my work as a volunteer I have faced some anxiety due to having to deal with confidentiality. I have had fears of accidentally breaking confidentiality by emailing the wrong person or something like that. Offsite I've had fears of breaking confidentiality by unwittingly saying the wrong thing to someone. While I know, rationally, I wouldn't do this my anxiety has caused me to invent scenarios where I do. I now have fears of doing this within my profession and while I have struggled to cope with the anxiety I have picked up tools through my volunteer work. The biggest tool I've been able to utilize is positive self talk. When I am anxious about some invented scenario that pertains to work I can sit with that thought and do positive self talk and remind myself about why I have not unwittingly broken confidentiality. While it isn't the perfect solution I have found that my anxiety doesn't spiral to the extent that it could and I have to thank my volunteer work for giving me the proper tools to combat the anxiety.

Within my job there is also a lot of multi-tasking involved and I've found that I learned ways to multi-task effectively via TeenHelp. I've always felt that TeenHelp requires a lot of multi-tasking but it can be hard to figure out ways to multi-task adequately. Over the years I learned things such as not being afraid to take things slow when it comes to multi-tasking and making sure to take a step back if I become overwhelmed with all the multi-tasking. While my job requires multi-tasking on a grander scale, I still utilize what I learned on TeenHelp. TeenHelp requires a fair bit of multi-tasking and prioritizing. There have been times when I have been faced with deadlines and I have had to prioritize online activity as well as offsite activity. I think that learning to prioritize is one of the biggest things that TeenHelp has taught me because before I joined staff I struggled with prioritizing and I struggled with not getting stressed out by deadlines. Now, I definitely do get stressed but I have the ability to try and calm myself down through my skill of prioritizing.

My job also has a lot of procedures and guidelines that I have to follow and that requires me to stay familiar with them. This is similar to what I've had to do within my volunteer capacity such as staying familiar with the Terms of Service since they change. I have also had to work on learning how to interpret policies and guidelines to the best of my ability even though these interpretations can be viewed differently by each person. This requires me to have strong decision making skills and to be able to defend the decisions I make if I am questioned. I've learned to trust my decision making skills due to the work I have done on TeenHelp.

I have also had to deal with a lot of constructive criticism or constructive feedback within my job. I am new to the position and there are a ton of things to learn and figure out so mistakes have happened and they may continue to happen for a while. With the mistakes I have made I have also had to deal with the constructive feedback that my supervisor has to offer. This is not an easy thing to deal with because of my sensitivity and I do take it personally, initially, however I have also been able to get to a place where I take in what is being said and try and apply it to my work so that I can become a better employee. It stings to receive the constructive feedback but it has helped me improve. I know that in the past my ability to handle constructive feedback was not great. I've learned how to cope and learn from it due to my volunteer work since there have been times when I have needed to improve. Over the years of volunteering I have realized that the constructive criticism I received is not being given to hurt me but to help me grow within my volunteering. I feel as though the constructive criticism has helped me grow which is why I have become more open to taking the criticism that I receive.

Lastly, I have learned leadership skills through my work with TeenHelp. I've been a Lead Moderator for a few years and as a Lead Moderator I have had to take on the role of leadership. This was something that I was eager to do but it was definitely a scary thing to do. With time and with some mistakes, I have learned how to be a better leader and I've been able to take those skills to my job. I don't do a lot of leading within my capacity but I have learned how to help peers who are struggling with the adjustment of the new job and it has been a great feeling.

Due to not having a lot of experience I was scared I wouldn't be prepared for the job and I am grateful for everything I have learned through my volunteer experience. Without my volunteer work I am unsure if I would have gotten the job and I know that without my volunteer experience I would not have been as prepared for the work environment and the adjustment would have been much more difficult.

If you are interested in developing skills it might be worth it to try and volunteer here at TeenHelp or other places.

Last edited by Rob; June 1st 2022 at 05:53 PM.
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