The Ups and Downs of Volunteering


 This is a water shot from the East Garden by the Imperial Palace. I love the challenge of shooting water!

Speaking of challenges, who ever said that volunteering is easy???? I would like to explore that topic in some detail. According to many studies I have seen, community involvement is one of the best things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and young. One of the best ways to be involved with the community is to volunteer. If only it were that simple!

One of the challenges related to volunteering is tied to the organization itself. How well run is the organization? How well qualified are the staff members? How is the quality of the work done by the organization? Is the organization respected in the community and in the related field? 

It gets even more interesting when the volunteer has more experience than the staff members of the organization. Are the staff members willing to learn from the volunteer and are they willing to take advantage of the experiences and wisdom of the volunteer or are those staff members so vested in their own ways of doing the job that they are not receptive to the volunteer's expertise? 

Lastly, what about the volunteer with all this experience? Is that person willing to work with people who are so protective of their work habits that they are not willing to consider alternatives, despite evidence to support those alternatives?

I do not have any easy answers to these questions. Speaking for myself, I think I feel like in a paid worker situation, if I had a lot more experience than my boss, I would do all I could to make the situation work, even if my boss was not receptive to my input. However, if I was volunteering and had a lot more experience than the paid workers, I am not sure I would continue under the same circumstances.  If I am volunteering, I think I would want to volunteer with paid workers who would really want to learn from the experiences I have had.

One would hope that all of us would be receptive to the efforts of someone with more experience than us. What a great opportunity that is to learn from an expert. Are we willing to leave our egos at the door so we can be receptive and open to alternative ways of doing our jobs? 

I will never forget an extreme example of this. I was in the special education masters program and was also working as a substitute teacher's aide. I had renewed my teaching license so I could sub as an aide or as a teacher. I did not feel like the head teacher for this sub job was giving me the respect I deserved, In my nicest way possible, I shared that concern with him, after telling him that I appreciated his efforts. He then told me that as a teacher's aide, I was to shut up, put up, and do my job. I then requested to be moved to another sub position. Ouch! 

What about you? Are you taking full advantage of the opportunity to learn from others?

All the best,

Bob

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