Parents, family and friends will have many questions regarding your decision to pursue a full-time service commitment after graduation. These apprehensions are normal, and they only want the best for you, and that is to reach your career goals and be financially stable, both of which are completely possible and many times easier after a year of service. Many agency websites will have similar information for your family, so be sure to check them out as well.
The greatest reassurance can come from someone who has been through an experience before. To share concerns and ask questions, contact Carol Cyphers, Office Manager of CCSJ and mother of Erin Cyphers, '05, Colorado Vincentian Volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Peggy Toomb, mother of Maura Toomb, '08, Jesuit Volunteer in Bethel, Alaska at email@example.com.
Questions and Answers for Parents about Non-Profit Service Work
By Lisa Muscato
Pastoral Counseling Graduate Student at Loyola and Former Colorado Vincentian Volunteer
With every semester that passes, excitement builds over what the next step of your student’s life will hold. For both students and parents there is a lot of anticipation over what immediate steps will be taken towards their future goals and career. There are so many variables that can influence this decision, including personal and academic interests, professional connections, time spent in student organizations and of course passion, excitement and commitment to a goal or cause.
This discernment process might be familiar to you. You went through it at different times in your life, maybe even recently. You are supportive of your child and want to help him or her make this decision. And yet your student might have an option on his or her list that you had never considered, for yourself, or for your child.
“You want work for a non-profit?”
Wanting to work for a non-profit is sometimes difficult for parents to understand. The mission, goals and objectives of a non-profit organization does not include making a dividend of profit. People who work for these organizations are often paid starting salaries about the same as other entry-level positions. Although salaries do not compete with other for-profit jobs, there is still room for advancement in non-profit work. Non-profit work is not limited to social services. These are organizations that work towards change in a variety of arenas. The work is meaningful and the workers are essential.
“You want to be a volunteer?”
For some parents, the idea of volunteering is confusing. Being a full-time volunteer is almost a misnomer. It’s true that when a person commits to be a volunteer, she or he is not paid a salary; however, these individuals are compensated for their time and commitment with a variety of benefits. Among the many benefits offered by most volunteer organizations are room and board, transportation, loan deferment (or repayment) and even health insurance. These benefits vary per organization, however, the volunteer’s time, energy and commitment is valued as shown by physical and emotional support of all varieties.
Lots of other questions might follow: “Don’t you want to use your degree?” or, “Can you afford to take a year off?” and, “Don’t you want to start your career?”
These are actually the same questions that students considering non-profit work and volunteer service are encouraged to ask themselves. Considering long-term professional and personal goals, financial needs and other practical issues are important to this decision-making process. These are good questions to ask your child. And you might be surprised that he or she has already determined the answers. In reality, non-profit work and volunteer service can be an excellent starting point for many different careers. Students can begin their career working in a job related to their future goals. They can also explore jobs not-related to their degree, gaining important skills. These are jobs that go on resumes and that stay with a person for a lifetime.
The benefits of being a full-time volunteer, practically, personally and professionally, are too varied to count and innumerate. The few that have been listed above are explained on the attached worksheet. However, the best way to know how this will benefit your son or daughter is to ask them. Ask them about their interest, what research they have done and what their options are. Some other conversation starters might include:
- What sparked your interest?
- What kind of work are you interested in?
- What are some goals you want to accomplish in this work?
- How do you see it fitting into your short-term goals? Long-term goals?
- Where do you want to do your work and why?
A resource that might be useful to both you and your student is the Web site for Catholic Network of Volunteers Services (CNVS). CNVS is a non-profit whose mission is to connect organizations seeking volunteers with persons seeking placements. The website has an abundance of resources for both parties, and also gives more insight into the process of full time volunteer service. Go to www.cnvs.org to find out more.
This is an exciting time, both for your student, as he or she looks towards that first experience as a graduate, and for you, anticipating what the future holds. Non-profit work and volunteer service is a viable option that your student is investigating. Help your son or daughter through this process by asking questions and listening to the answers.
Lisa Muscato is a Campus Recruitment Associate with CNVS. She is also a graduate student at Loyola in the Pastoral Counseling Program. Lisa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.