The parallel pleasures of Interning and Volunteering

Arbitrary experiences are everyone’s best asset;
Interning and volunteering are two parallel, yet distinct sources of experience; and the most transformative chapter of my career to date.

The loose distinction between the two has to do with movement:


  • Interning is an undertaking where the convergent movement of
    knowledge (and skills) are given from the organisation or mentor, to the individual.
  • Volunteering is an undertaking where divergent movement knowledge diagram2and skill are received by an organisation from an individual.

While subtly parallel, these experiences are cyclical – skills gained from the wide spectrum of knowledge are filtered down to an individual, who then retains them and applies them in another situation. Broadly, these are the essential processes for all professionals of any age.

For Gen- Y interns, this is an encouraging visual; they have the ability to set the scope of their experiences. Organisations actively seek casual or seasonal interns, and vice versa. Interning is not purely unpaid employment, it is willing unpaid employment; they have the ability to seek specific knowledge and experiences from virtually any organisation.

The caveat for Interns is that they must meet specific competencies to become (albeit, temporarily) part of an organisation – which can mean having experience in certain area, or a skill. This Aristotelean irony still looms:

We have to learn to do, we learn by doing
– Aristotle

Volunteering similarly, presents a range of opportunities, centered around the donation of human resources (time,skills).  Volunteering will always be continuously available, and can be a one-off experience (e.g for an event) or it can be ongoing (for an organisation).

For Volunteers, Aristotle’s words become:
We have learned, so we do to share and we share by doing

Knowledge has never been so accessible; when you share (giving) it or if  you’re receiving it. Despite the movement, learning is never one-way process. The motivation to engage and to share your knowledge or skills in any industry/organisation is a vital part of anyone’s career journey and character building.

There is no limit on the benefits you can reap.


Also published on LinkedIn Pulse



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