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Getting Started

Steps to Volunteering

How do you get an internship or find an opportunity to volunteer? This page will walk you through the process step-by-step, describing what to expect, how to prepare, and what to do once you find yourself in a service placement.

Choosing an internship or volunteer placement

  1. Identify 1-2 health care or human services professions that interest you. Talk your choices over with a teacher or counselor.
  2. Research internships or volunteer opportunities related to these careers. Use this guide or other online databases listing internships and opportunities.
  3. Make a list of your top 2-3 internships and volunteer opportunities and discuss them with your teacher or counselor.
  4. Call the contact person at the organization.
    • If they aren't in the office, leave them a detailed message with information about yourself including what school you go to, what type of volunteering you're interested in and how you found their name. Be specific about good times for them to return your call since you're in school most of the day.
    • Be persistent and patient, as many Volunteer Coordinators only work part-time.
  5. Ask if you can come in for an interview.
    • Positive volunteer experiences happen when both the volunteer and the Volunteer Coordinator decide that the match is a good fit. Visiting the organization's office will allow you to see the environment and the kind of service you'll be doing.
    • Introduce yourself.
    • Remember to mention that you're a student and explain why you're interested in volunteering with the organization you've chosen to call.
    • Write down the day and time of the interview once it's scheduled! Make sure you have the right address. Ask the agency for directions or information about public transportation.
    • Be on time for your appointment.
    • If you are unable to make your scheduled appointment, be sure to call the Volunteer Coordinator ahead of time.
  6. Complete an interview
    • Ask questions during your interview.
    • Some questions might include:
      • What exactly does the job entail?
      • What kind of training would I receive?
      • What hours would you like me to work?
      • Is there a minimum time commitment (like one month, six months, etc.)?
      • Is there a dress code?
    • If you're comfortable during the interview and like the organization, go for it!
    • Don't hesitate to make arrangements to start volunteering if you feel like it's a good fit.
    • If you aren't certain about the opportunity and want to think it over, tell the Volunteer Coordinator.
    • Give them a date by which you'll call them back.
  7. If the job is not right for you, just thank the Volunteer Coordinator and continue to look for positions. It may take a few calls and even a few interviews, but the right volunteer opportunity is waiting for you!

Adapted from

Once you have an internship or volunteer placement

  • Be professional in the way you dress, speak, and interact with agency staff and clients.
  • Be responsible in following through on assignments. Communication is important whether you are running late or are dealing with a difficult matter.
  • Be respectful - of other cultures, of the client's right to confidentiality and privacy.
  • Anticipate how you would deal with problems. What is the chain of command? How do you report emergencies?
  • Take care of yourself. If you are working in medical or mental health settings, how do you keep yourself healthy and deal with emotions that the work may bring up?
  • Keep track of your hours. These may need to be turned in.

Adapted from College of San Mateo Connects - Student Packet

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