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How do you make a good impression when volunteering?

Where I volunteer is a pretty impersonal place. I just go in unnoticed and barely get acknowledged by any staff. I understand that the staff is both busy and tired (this is an animal ER). I don't want to interrupt them, but how can I make good relations? The program offers letters of recommendation for people who have been there 1 year long, but how can they write a recommendation if none of the staff interacts with the volunteers? #college #internships #resume #volunteering #networking

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Ollie’s Answer

Be the change you want to see in this workplace! I know, I know, corny slogan. But here's what it looks like:


Interact with your fellow volunteers the way you think volunteers should be treated. Thank them for showing up. Tell them you're happy to see them. Ask them this Question, "what surprised you today here at the critter ER?"


Interact with the staff in similar ways. Tell them you're happy to see them. Tell them "thanks for the privilege of serving alongside you" (using your own words, and the lingo of the place). Ask for small bits of advice -- "do you know a good way to get the grime out of the corner of that cage?" or whatever. (People love to share their experience.)


If they're looking tired, you can say "you look tired. Is there anything I can do you help you?" The Question (what surprised you today?) is just as good for a vet surgeon with forty years of experience as it is for yesterday's new volunteer cleaning crew member. It may help the overworked staff see their work in a new light.


Keep in mind that some of these coworkers are more introverted than you. Are you a person who charges your batteries by talking to people and interacting? If so, be sensitive to those who charge their batteries by being alone. A smile can go a long way. Don't assume they don't notice you.


Next: GOOD FOR YOU for observing that this place makes mistakes handling volunteers! Pay attention to how they could improve. Think through one or two concrete, do-able, suggestions, and if somebody asks you for feedback, offer them one, and offer to help make it happen.


A suggestion might be: wear nametags and greet people by name.
Another: improve volunteer scheduling by rigging up a private facebook page.
You get the idea. Simple stuff. Not "let's work on more cows and horses and fewer dogs" but "let's have volunteers wear nametags."


Even if this place can't improve, you'll be wiser about this in the next place you work. Maybe one day in your life you'll supervise volunteers. In that case you'll have some ideas about what to do and what not to do.


Finally: Plenty of places need volunteers. If this place's institutional attitude keeps discouraging you, it may be time to get out of Dodge. Volunteer someplace else.

Thank you comment icon Thank you! Jackie
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Ken’s Answer

Hi Jackie!


The most important way to be noticed is to do the best job that you can.


Let your supervisor know that you would find it helpful to have periodic review meetings to have an opportunity to get feedback and ask questions that would allow you to do the best job possible and get the most out of the program as possible.

Thank you comment icon You're very right. Thank you! Jackie
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Katy’s Answer

Having volunteered at the Animal Humane society for a number of years, I can guess the environment you are working with. To be successful is to remain positive and energized.


Be organized and efficient. People will notice. Smile and don't complain and ask if you can help out. If you see something that could be better, make a suggestion. You indicate that staff seem tired, well, try to take something off of their plates. Ask, "is there anything I can do for you?" Take the time to take an inventory of who you are working with and how they work then align yourself, in a positive way, with those people. Consider them your leaders and that when you are better, they are better. Overall, just remain positive, punctual and helpful. Go above and beyond to kick the recommendation into high gear. Let them know who you are and what you can do.


On a side note: This job can be very stressful with concerned and sometimes frantic customers. Maintain a state of calm and respect and understand if staff needs a breather.


Remember why you are there.

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Chris’s Answer

to really help you it would good to know the circumstances?
e.g. are you a student or adult volunteer?
do you deal directly with the clientele?
how often do you volunteer at this site?


Thanks


Chris

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