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Volunteering in the USA: what free work can give you

Фото: Depositphotos

Work without money for thanks. Many in the United States do this out of a desire to help or gain the necessary experience. Volunteering for newcomers to America is a good opportunity to adapt to a new environment, improve their language, practice in an area of ​​interest, or just do business if there is no work permit in the States. For those who are ready to work for free, "Forum" tells what advantages volunteering can bring.

Two sides of the medal

In America, being a volunteer is useful, and in some cases necessary. In particular, while studying in college, students often need to undergo a professional internship, during which they volunteer, free of charge, in their specialty. Volunteering can also be the first career step for a young professional with no work experience who wants to get into his dream company, or for a newly arrived migrant who wants to integrate into a professional environment. With experience as a volunteer, it is easier to find a job or go to college.

For more than a century and a half of the existence of the volunteer movement in the United States, free labor began to be used in almost all areas - from working with children or the elderly to the filming sites of multimillion-dollar Hollywood films. However, sometimes companies openly abuse the altruism of volunteers. So, in 2013, interns who worked for more than six months for free for Fox Searchlight Pictures on the set of the movie Black Swan, which earned more than $ 300 million, won the court and sued their salary.

IMPORTANT: US Department of Labor clearly defines six criteriaWhen an internship in a commercial company may not be paid:

  1. The internship is essentially a vocational training;
  2. the experience gained is useful for the intern;
  3. the intern does not replace the employee, but works under his supervision;
  4. the employer does not receive direct benefits from the activities of the intern;
  5. An intern does not necessarily get a job after completing an internship;
  6. the employer and the intern understand that the intern does not have the right to pay for the time spent in the internship.

However, in general, the US population is a lot of volunteer and happy. According to the latest, in 2014, every fourth inhabitant of the country was engaged in volunteering in one form or another. And even on the eve of Thanksgiving, even US President Barack Obama regularly becomes a volunteer at the Martha's Table charity organization and distributes food to those in need. At the same time, along with him, all his family’s volunteers - his wife, children and even his mother-in-law.

How to help yourself by helping others

Newly arrived immigrants in volunteering can find a lot of advantages for themselves, if, of course, they are morally ready to work for free.

  1. Volunteering will help learn English and integrate into society

The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the language environment and communicate more. Volunteer will take you with any level of knowledge of the language.

There are many volunteer positions, where it is not necessary to speak, but you can listen and delve as much as you like. This can be work in a library, a museum or souvenir shops at museums, in amusement parks. For mothers of schoolchildren, volunteering in the classroom is suitable - you can help the teacher, cut and paste teaching materials. Nature lovers can help out at the farm, park, animal shelters and zoos.

Such volunteer work will also help newcomers to the United States to understand the peculiarities of the mentality and details of the daily life of Americans.

Where to look for positions: - general base of positions - government base

Positions in zoos, museums, parks or libraries can be found directly on their sites. Volunteer positions in animal shelters can be viewed. here.

Elena Kalugina moved to California from Kiev with her husband back in 1996. While there was no work permit, I decided to volunteer - I wanted to psychologically integrate into society. In the pre-Google era, existing positions had to be learned in libraries and city centers. After a long search, Elena ended up in an art gallery. Here she worked for three years, 2-4 hours a week, communicating with artists and visitors.

Elena Kalugina, thanks to volunteering, found her first job in America. Photos from the personal archive.

Elena Kalugina, thanks to volunteering, found her first job in America. Photos from the personal archive.

Volunteering helped Elena improve her spoken English, develop administrative skills and even, to some extent, get a loan for a home.

“When we took out a loan for a house, the bank asked for an official document confirming that for the first three years I did not just sit at home, but worked. And the sent official testimonial from the place of my volunteering satisfied the bank completely, ”says Elena.

Now, despite the fact that she has the main work, Elena is a permanent volunteer of the creative association “Cedars”. She takes part in organizing and holding creative events and festivals, sings, coordinates work at workshops and master classes.

  1. Volunteering will help you get the necessary work experience.

Immigrants in the United States often have to re-learn their or new profession. Volunteering in this case is not just an opportunity to try different types of activities, but in some cases one of the most important conditions for recruitment. If you were a scientist / economist / lawyer / doctor at home, in the USA all knowledge and diplomas will have to be confirmed and supplemented - not only with training, but also with experience in the relevant field. In addition, in order not to pay big money for a college, you must first live in the US for a year, get resident status, and then studying will cost you 3-4 times cheaper. Just this first year can be spent on gaining work experience as a volunteer.

Pros: you learn the profession from the inside - especially if you take the initiative and take on more responsibilities, get to know professionals who you can ask for advice, learn the specifics of the work. In addition, some companies that take you on volunteering / internships may offer a permanent job after the trial period.

Where to look for positions:

If the common sites do not have suitable positions, then you can try a specialized search. Just enter in the search box “volunteering” and the area of ​​their interests. For example, physics, biology, medicine and so on. You can also enter your location or even view the position in a particular institution.

Elena Kostrygina arrived in the USA from Donetsk 15 years ago and immediately got a volunteer position as a web administrator: compiled questionnaire forms on the site, learned to properly communicate via e-mail and phone, and updated the site. In total, the work took about ten hours a week.

Elena Kostrygina found a volunteer position in her professional profile. Photos from the personal archive.

Elena Kostrygina worked as a volunteer in her profession. Photos from the personal archive.

Elena did the same at home, so a year and a half of volunteering became an excellent work experience for her, an opportunity to improve her professional and spoken language and a worthy line in her resume. “For those who want to continue doing their professional work upon arrival in the United States, I would advise to find volunteering in their profile and work for some time in this area,” she says.

  1. Volunteering to help enter and graduate from college

In both schools and colleges, any volunteer activity is encouraged - it helps teenagers develop leadership skills, shows their activity and initiative, and later becomes a good start for forming a resume. In addition, volunteering helps teenagers determine what areas they are interested in, where they are strong, and what makes sense to work on.

Volunteering during your school years is a big plus when entering college. Volunteering, or the so-called internship (internship), is a prerequisite for graduating from college. For the interns themselves, this is an opportunity to gain practical experience, which can be safely indicated in the resume. However, as the study of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which is referred to by the American ForbesInterns who have completed a free internship get a job with a lower salary than those who have not completed the internship at all. But after a paid internship, graduates find higher paying positions.

Where to look for positions: (should indicate that positions are required for teenagers)

For interns:

Natalia Volkodav arrived in the US from Zaporozhye in 2009, with her husband and child. I wanted to tighten up English and not sit at home all the time, so I almost immediately got a job as a decorator in a bakery. After six months of work, the volunteers were promised a decorator's certificate and the opportunity to get a job already on a paid basis. But after only a few months, Natalya found a job at a restaurant in San Jose Airport, and the line on volunteering in the resume helped her a lot.

Natalia Volkodav

Volunteering helped Natalya Volkodav to improve her English and fill in the necessary line in her resume. Photo from personal archive.

And in 2014, Natalia entered a California college for a two-year nursing course. Volunteering as a nurse is a mandatory requirement during training. Natalia has already volunteered at the Kaizer Medical Center, as well as at individual events and examinations. This gave her not just a line on her resume, but also an irreplaceable experience, with which she has a much better chance of being in demand in her profession.

“Volunteering is a very important part of education and profession. After all, for the employer this is like a sign: if a person agrees to do something for free, then he is really interested in it, ”she said.

  1. Volunteering will allow you to do interesting work and help others

If you do not have and do not yet foresee the opportunity to work, but at the same time you are full of energy and want to develop, be useful and necessary, then volunteering becomes an ideal opportunity to realize yourself. You can choose a job in your professional field or find one-time events if you don't have time for full-fledged volunteering. And for those who cannot sit still and who are attracted by the wind of distant wanderings, volunteer positions abroad are perfect. Volunteers are always required for schools and training centers around the world. The only "but" - you will have to pay for the flight, insurance and possibly housing.

Where to look for positions:

Special sites for volunteers at the age of: - you can “become” a grandmother or a grandfather for children with special needs, teach children, help adults with reduced mobility or other retirees, work with victims of natural disasters. - support for pensioners and the elderly

Volunteering abroad - work with children, volunteering on the surfer beach - volunteering on organic farms - dozens of different positions around the world - versatile positions - work with children and people with special needs

Elena Aravina in California is already 2,5 of the year. Almost immediately after arriving from Saratov, she found a volunteer position at the Fort Ross Russian Historical Heritage Festival, which takes place annually near San Francisco. According to Elena, she was driven primarily by curiosity and a desire to find herself, but this first experience gave her a lot: communication, language practice, socialization. After that, volunteering itself became a conscious choice - to devote part of your free time to a socially useful business.

Elena Aravina - volunteer at the Fort Ross festival (along with Stage manager Jim Ocean). Photos from the personal archive.

Elena Aravina volunteers at the Fort Ross festival. Photos from the personal archive.

Elena is now studying in college, so she cannot volunteer on an ongoing basis because of her school schedule. However, she often finds the group in Silicon Valley Volunteers on interesting one-time volunteer projects. In particular, Elena has already joined the tree planting campaign.

“Volunteering for me, an introvert, is first of all a challenge to myself. After all, you almost always have to communicate with strangers. In addition, it turned out to be very pleasant to do something for free. The main thing is to choose something to your liking so that it does not greatly disrupt your personal plans, then work will invariably be a pleasure! " - says Elena.

Now she is finishing college and is preparing to go to work, but she does not plan to give up her volunteer work even in the future.

Read also on ForumDaily:

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