Throughout my career, I’ve volunteered with many organisations and projects. These include being a Travel Champion at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, working in a track gang on the Ffestiniog Railway, mentoring via Women in Rail, supporting the Royal Academy of Engineering and — of course — volunteering with APM.
I’ve found volunteering to be an incredible way to give back to the community or the profession, while also gaining valuable skills and experiences.
Whether you have a few hours a week or want to make volunteering a full-time commitment, there are countless opportunities to get involved and make a difference to the lives of others.
Below are some of the key benefits of volunteering that I’ve discovered.
1. Developing skills
Volunteering is an excellent way to practise critical thinking, decision-making and communication skills. I’ve had the opportunity to exercise these frequently through my role on the APM Board and I have been fortunate to be surrounded by fantastic people whom I can always learn from.
2. Building relationships
I have been fortunate to enjoy many years with the APM Planning, Monitoring and Control Specific Interest Group, which is closely aligned with my career in programme controls and analytics. Working alongside such an experienced group of people has given me an insight into different industries, organisations and ways of working. I have benefitted greatly from this opportunity to broaden my understanding and I have made some wonderful friendships along the way.
3. Personal satisfaction
Volunteering gives me a sense of personal fulfilment — I’ve always enjoyed working on good things with good people. I have replaced track on a heritage railway and worked on a project to help local engineers deliver products and services needed to fight COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa. These projects were phenomenal to work on and gave me the opportunity to share skills and knowledge, while also learning about topics I wouldn’t naturally encounter during work.
How to make the most of volunteering opportunities
Volunteering can be incredibly rewarding, but it's also important to approach it with a plan and realistic expectations. Below are some tips for making the most of your volunteering experience.
1. Align your skills
Look for opportunities where you have experience that could be valuable to the organisation. This will help you make an impact on the organisation, while also giving you the opportunity to gain new experiences and build relationships.
2. Be proactive
Reach out and connect with your local APM branch or chapter, a specific interest group or a volunteer coordinator. They will be able to provide you with information, support and ideas about how best to get involved.
3. Be flexible
Volunteering isn’t always easy or fast — remember, you are working alongside other people who are also volunteers and whose priorities may need to change to suit their life balance. Don’t be disheartened if things take longer than you expect; just keep going and don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it.
Whether you're looking for ways to make a difference in your local community or want to take on more ambitious volunteering opportunities with APM, there are countless opportunities to get involved. So why not give volunteering a try today?
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