Volunteer’s Open Mind Leads to ‘Dream Job’

Jenny Zhang is a Chinese migrant who isn’t afraid to expand her horizons. This outlook has led her to volunteering, discovering new things and building her skill base.

After moving to Scotland for university and completing her degree in International Business, Jenny was recruited into Tesco’s graduate programme where she was transferred back to China as a retail buyer. At this point Jenny met her partner, who was living in New Zealand, so she took the leap and moved to Wellington.

A completely new country and group of people is intimidating, but Jenny saw it as an opportunity. ‘I knew from the start I wanted to volunteer. My original goal was meeting new people and trying something different,’ Jenny said.

Within her second week of being in New Zealand Jenny started contacting potential workplaces Volunteer Wellington had suggested. Through this she found a job as a volunteer general helper at Brooklyn Resource Centre.

The Brooklyn Resource Centre serves meals for the elderly, gives them a chance to gather with others, and organises speakers for them to enjoy. Jenny discussed the benefits of the job. ‘I was able to meet other volunteers and connect with the community. I was also asked to do a speech about my travels – which proved as useful experience for my CV’, she said.

While she was at the Brooklyn Resource Centre, Jenny continued taking on additional volunteer roles. ‘I wanted to make the most of my time’, she explained.

This led her to starting a volunteer retail job at Mary Potter Hospice. She also had a go at tree planting at Otari-Wilton Bush – yet another new experience for someone accustomed to the concrete jungles of Shanghai.

At this stage, Jenny’s purpose for volunteering started to change. ‘I started to want a volunteer role that would help me get paid. So I began looking for volunteer admin roles’, she said.

From her search, Jenny found a job as an interviewer at Volunteer Wellington. While there she also got to promote Volunteer Wellington to students at Victoria University of Wellington. ‘Taking every opportunity I’m given has enabled learning experiences and personal development,’ she expressed.

It was quite a journey but the time came to start looking for paid work. Within her first week of searching Jenny found her ‘dream role’ working at Weta Workshop and Weta Cave doing retail work and tours.

‘Volunteering gave me proven experience for my cover letter. In the interview I stressed my volunteer experience and had plenty of relevant examples I could use to impress the interviewers.’

Jenny felt surprised and excited to receive the job from Weta and says volunteering played a big role in her confidence for applying to the role.

Her advice for others interested in volunteering would be that while people might not find a role specifically related to their industry, it’s still a worthwhile experience. “Try something different, build opportunities, and build life experiences, because you never know what will happen.”

Story by Lydia PincottJZ weta cave photo

Job Satisfaction with a Difference

As a full time IT specialist, relaxation and a stress free job could seem like a far away dream. But Chalaka Salpadoru has found during the one-hour periods he spends working as a Volunteer interviewer at Volunteer Wellington he has been able to experience a job without the pressures of the IT world.

Volunteering became a change from the usual everyday work as well as something that continuously showed Chalaka multiple benefits that could not be found in his full time work.

‘I was able to see the impact that volunteering has on the community through referring the many volunteers to a variety of organisations,’ he said, referring to the 400 community organisations Volunteer Wellington work with.

Inspired by the many benefits of volunteering, Chalaka had the idea to run a seminar called ‘Let’s Volunteer’ to encourage others into volunteering.

Backed by Amy, Claude, and Mayumi – the other Wednesday evening volunteers – discussions began about what they’d include, how they’d promote the event and what their goals were.

‘It provided me with really useful communication and leadership skills as I worked through the process of organizing the event,’ Chalaka said.

Exceeding the original aim of 10 people, a multicultural group of 11 from countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Argentina and, of course, some New Zealanders, attended the seminar.

The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming and one attendee even exclaimed, ‘If this is what volunteering is like it will be a highlight’.

During the seminar the benefits of volunteering to volunteers and society were expressed through moving stories of what volunteers had gotten out of volunteering. Information was also provided on how to start volunteering, where to look for roles, and what to expect as a volunteer.

Attendees were able to see how meaningful volunteering can be, whatever role or task you’re doing – big or small – you’re still contributing to the whole.

Written by Lydia Pincott

Attendees at the 'Let's Volunteer Seminar' learning about the wonderful world of volunteering.

Attendees at the ‘Let’s Volunteer Seminar’ learning about the wonderful world of volunteering.