How Volunteering Helped Me Expand My Career Options

How Volunteering Helped Me Expand My Career Options

By: Jien Hilario
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This story is part of the series, I Am Able: From Art to Advocacy, an Insider's View of Students Living with a Disability by Jien Hilario 

When I was fifteen, I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist. Then, after taking Psychology 12 and intensely disliking it, I changed my career plans. It felt like the worst time to change my mind because I was applying to universities and choosing programs I hoped to be admitted to and I felt adrift. I kept coming back around to Psychology though, and have had to keep exploring different career options, based on my grades, my motivations and my fit to the work and the marketplace. This is where volunteer work really helped me.

I was a member of Agape Church Burnaby and right after high school, somebody suggested that I start teaching Sunday school as a volunteer. I had a lesson plan created for me but, really, I had no idea what I was doing, it was my first time in the classroom and was quite scary.

Eventually, it got easier, as I learned some helpful teaching techniques, and I realized that my students knew a lot more than I did. I also realized that there are different types of kids and thus different types of people. I loved working with my rambunctious kids. Some are shy and others are outgoing. I loved engaging in fun games and activities with the children because it made me feel like a kid again. I even loved having to deal with the insecurities I faced when teaching:  Am I too lazy? Am I too permissive? Am I too strict? I tried to spend time with each kid and tailor my teaching style depending on each individual’s learning style. I was discovering how exciting it was to invest in learning and applying myself.

I had never considered teaching as a career until I started volunteering as a Sunday school teacher at my church, and if I had not taken the chance to say yes to this opportunity, I may not have discovered this trajectory that has expanded my career options. When I look at my resume now, quite a lot of my volunteer experience is related to teaching.

One day, one of my friends told me about the PDP program at SFU. The Professional Development Program is a program for aspiring teachers to gain work experience. I am currently looking to fulfill the admission requirements so that I have the option to apply for the program as I approach the end of my Bachelor of Arts. 

When I told people before that I wanted to be a psychologist, the reply was usually “that’s interesting…” When I changed my mind to social work, the reply was usually “are you sure..?” When I admitted that I wanted to become a teacher, the response changed to “I think you’d make a great teacher.”

Since we all have influences and want validation, interacting with others can help us realize who we are. These comments touched my heart because I had a passion for teaching, and it felt great to hear validation that I would make a good teacher. Realizations like this can help to move forward towards our goals and aspirations.

My story is evidence that trying new things and volunteering to help your community can open up new options and ideas, some of which may be life changing and can direct you down a path that you never imagined you would be on.

Jien HilarioJien Hilario is a fourth year student studying Psychology. She has written multiple articles about volunteerism, rights, abilities and disabilities and is passionate about sharing her story about personal and professional development.

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Posted on October 10, 2017