Volunteering Gave Me Confidence – Safiyah’s Story

Before my first year at university I had never experienced a professional or working environment. I was very much an independent individual, somewhat shy and very disposed to working in an insular manner. The idea of working as team and interacting with new people within new tasks and challenges was something I was somewhat apprehensive about. As a language student anticipating a future in translation and interpreting I was very aware of the social and communication skills that are required for such a career and therefore wanted to develop my skills within this area by becoming more outgoing, meeting new people and becoming a part of a team.

Volunteering was something I considered taking on early into my second semester. Over the Christmas period I searched the internet for various different opportunities where I felt I could both grow as a person as well as make a worthwhile contribution. I settled for two weekly positions that I felt I could confidently take on, these being a Shop Assistant for Cancer Research and Project Assistant for St. Luke’s Performing Production. Both of which involved very different working environments and tasks however centrally allowed me to branch out and experience workplace interaction and teamwork.

Working as a volunteer at the Cancer Research shop really brought me confidence as I was constantly meeting new people of all different backgrounds and being able to build my communication skills, gain more confidence and effectively overcome a lot of the shyness which I had initially struggled with. Being given the opportunity and resources to help customers by both answering questions and assisting them on the shop floor was a huge confidence booster. As well as this, being able to work as a team with the other shop assistants and volunteers was a really positive experience which allowed me to build trust and confidence within my colleagues, thus aiding me to feel much more secure within my position and able to seek support within tasks and even offer input and suggestions for improvement.

My role as a Project Assistant with St. Luke’s Performance Production was mainly administration based unlike that of my role at Cancer research which took a much more hands-on and practical form. Despite the central requirement of dealing with paperwork and data, there was also a heavy emphasis on communication across the department. Volunteering at St. Luke’s was a real eye opener at how crucial it is for interconnectivity to take place within a professional environment. I learned a lot about effectively communicating information to my colleagues and carefully considering how effective the method and content of my commutation would be in consideration to the goal that we would, as a team, be working towards.

As someone who is completely new to volunteering, I would without a doubt encourage anyone looking to grow as a person or build upon their employability skills alike to make volunteering a part of their lives.  It is a rewarding feeling be accepted within a team and achieve knowing that you worked together towards a common goal. There is so much variety within the realm of volunteering and both parties benefit, so it’s a win-win situation!

Safiyah Ouaguena

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