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How to Make the Most of Your Volunteer Experience

Find out how to make your volunteer experience last a lifetime.

 Pick the right project.

  • Ask yourself:
    • What kinds of work would I like to do?
    • What groups would I like to help (such as children, seniors, animals)?
    • What social or environmental issues would I like to address?
    • How much time do I have to volunteer?
    • What do I want to get out of volunteering? A chance to meet people, make a difference, use a skill or talent, or gain professional experience and contacts?
  • Choose organizations you're interested in, then:
    • Ask for a tour of the facility
    • Ask questions that interest you
  • Stretch beyond your comfort level. Something you've never tried before could put you in contact with new groups and help you build new skills.

Relate effectively to the people you serve.

  • If you are working with the organization's clients, listen to them more than you talk. Listening validates others' experiences and helps them feel comfortable. Who knows? Maybe you'll learn some things as you listen.
  • Avoid extremely personal questions or questions that might embarrass clients.


  • Go out of your way to interact with the people you're serving, other volunteers, and staff people.
  • Even if you're working on just a short project, sharing yourself can have a lasting impact on others.
  • Watch for lasting impacts others have on you, too.

Go above and beyond.

If you finish the task you came to do, ask the agency for another project that could use your help. You'll get to see a different aspect of the organization and gain another experience.


Consider the aspects of your service that you found most meaninful or enjoyable, and why. Think about:

  • What you would change about your experience
  • What challenged you
  • The impact you had on an issue or the people you served
  • The impact the experience had on you

Record your experiences.

  • Update your resume with your new skills.
  • Career PortfolioTool to be disabled June 30, 2015. Users should save or migrate data to another source (such as UCSD's Portfolium) before that date.