Among its many benefits, volunteering experience can be great addition to your CV or resume.
As you step outside of your comfort zone, taking part in a volunteering activity inevitably throws up new situations and challenges. The experiences can help you to grow as an individual and to develop new skills and competencies that you can take with you into your future career.
It doesn’t just happen by osmosis, however, and it’s imperative that you make time to take a step back and reflect on these experiences as you move through them. Here are some of the key reasons why reflection is so important during this stage in your life:
1. It improves performance
Reflection has been proven to be a critical component in the learning process. It’s about recognising that the way you have been doing things may not necessarily be the only way to do them, or indeed the best way. A Harvard University study found that individuals who reflected on past performances performed 18% better in subsequent tasks than those who didn’t. By analysing how well you did on a particular volunteering task or project you are building foundations for your future career.
2. You begin to recognise your weaknesses
Equally, reflection is an important tool in developing self-awareness and an understanding of where there may be weaknesses or gaps in your skill set. It’s not about thinking negatively about yourself but rather looking at where your existing qualities could be improved upon. It’s a bit like moving furniture around in your house and then looking back to see if it needs further adjustment.
3. …and to appreciate positive attributes
Human beings have a natural tendency to recall their failures in great detail and to overlook the many achievements along the way. Celebrating your successes in a constructive way is great for self-esteem and developing the confidence to tackle new challenges. You’ll also start to understand the kind of things you’re good at, giving you a feel for potential career options further down the line.
4. It broadens your perspective
Volunteering can be a rare opportunity to cross paths with people from different walks of life, individuals you mightn’t ordinarily meet in your normal day-to-day life. It’s essential that you make the most of all this exposure and take the time to absorb these different experiences, approaches and attitudes as you come into contact with them. Reflection can help you to start challenging your assumptions of the world around you as you begin to see life through a different lens.
As we’ve seen, reflection is the difference between merely participating in an event and making sure you extract the maximum value from the experience. Start thinking about how you can make time to reflect as you embark on your next volunteering project.