How volunteering can help you identify your true passion

If you’ve forgotten what your true passion is, or don’t yet know, volunteer to open your eyes. Volunteering lets you try out new skills or develop ones you already have, and help you find out what you’re really passionate about.

If you’re keen to change careers, but not sure what you would like to do, volunteering in various roles gives you the chance to identify what really matters to you and your career.

Think of volunteering as flight training in a simulator. If you haven’t quite got it right you’re not going to crash. It can also give you the opportunity to do something totally different that provides a balance to your day job.

Case study

Khurram Jahangir Khan’s passion is to work for the World Health Organisation (WHO). The 19-year-old is currently studying to become a doctor. But Khurram’s ambition isn’t highly paid private practice like many of his peers. Instead he wants to give back to others.

Thanks to his parents’ encouragement Pakistan-born Khurram started volunteering at the age of nine long before he planned his career. He has worked for all sorts of organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund, Rotary, and Amnesty International. The skills he has gained range from providing public relations for St Vinnies, to teaching general and science subjects to Sudanese refugees through the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning System (SAILS).

Khurram volunteers because he believes it was a worthy thing to do. The volunteer roles don’t directly relate to his career as a doctor. But they have helped him identify his true passion in life, which is, working with and understanding people from different cultures and religions. “There is a lot of diversity in Australia and I wanted to understand it. I will need to know in my career, who people are and how you interact with them.”

Find your passion

Many volunteers, says Rachael Le Mesurier of Oxfam, are people who are reassessing their current career pathway. "They join us to explore what it may mean working for an organisation focused on social change and long term development," says Le Mesurier.

"We are told that working for Oxfam New Zealand is life-changing for our interns and our volunteers who are considering career changes," says Le Mesurier. "The time with Oxfam offers them an opportunity to test their assumptions and expectations."

Try, if you can, to work in volunteer roles out of your usual comfort zone. Then reflect on the experiences and take the time to really think what drives you and makes you happy, says Rebecca Supierz, HR Manager at SEEK. "Think about the tasks you do, the people you work with and the situations you find yourself in. Hobbies, activities, and volunteering can help you identify that passion."

Recognise your transferrable skills

If you’re looking for your passion through volunteering and don’t really know where to start, it can be a good idea to micro volunteer. That’s doing short-lived activities, or contributing from home. Check out the events calendar on SEEK Volunteer for opportunities. "SEEK Volunteer allows people to search for flexible roles to match the amount of time they can donate, as well as allowing volunteers to select roles that will utilise their existing professional skills," says Amanda Robinson, SEEK Volunteer Manager.