Keeping a volunteering journal

There are many reasons why people keep journals or diaries; from reducing anxiety, to keeping memories fresh or to improve writing skills. We believe that keeping a journal for your volunteering can do all of this and more! Many of our Careers Consultants believe in using this technique to track progress in reaching career goals and it can be beneficial in creating our personal stories. This practice can also help us in understanding our emotional connection to a cause and what role we should play in it. In this blog we explore how to set up a journal, some tips on keeping it active and key questions to ask yourself.

Setting up a journal

What form your journal takes is completely up to you! For some it might be a classic diary, for other it might be a notes app on your phone, or perhaps a blog. You could look to set up an Excel spreadsheet that tracked dates and achievements, record voice notes or just write an email to yourself at the end of each month. The choice is yours. Ensuring that it’s a comfortable place to write and that it’s convenient are important though. Making this part of your routine will be key and shouldn’t feel like an additional piece of “life admin”.

When should I start?

When we think of keeping a journal it’s implied that we will be writing about the past. However, when connected to our volunteering journey it can be really important to look ahead too. Before starting a new role, or even part way through it, think about the upcoming period and what you’d like it to look like.

  • Why am I doing this activity?
  • How will I know that I’ve made a difference?
  • What skills am I looking to use or gain?
  • What experiences do I hope to have?
  • How do I hope to feel at the end of this opportunity?

Your volunteering is bound to throw up new experiences that you can’t plan for but having a game plan that you’re working towards will be incredibly useful for when you come to track your progress.

Questions to ask yourself

We provided a list of common questions when looking to reflect on your volunteering when thinking about your career in a previous blog. These include:

  • What did I enjoy most?
  • What did I learn about the cause that I was volunteering for?
  • Which skills did I get a chance to practice?
  • What do I know now that I didn’t before I started my volunteering opportunity?
  • What did I find difficult? What would I do differently if I faced a similar situation again?
  • What do I feel proud of most from my volunteering opportunity?
  • Has anything surprised me? If so, what?
  • Have I reached the goals I set myself with this opportunity?

Relating this back to the questions you asked yourself before you started volunteering will be important. Using the “What? So what? Now what?” technique can help focus some of the thoughts and feelings that you might be having, particularly in relation to your career goals.

It might also be worth considering what role you see yourself playing for this cause in the future. Is this something that you want to dedicate your career to? Or is this an opportunity that takes your mind off the stresses of every day life? It’s important to remember that not every passion or hobby has to be converted in to a career opportunity.

Keeping it going

There are going to be times when the last thing you want to is write in your journal or send that email to yourself, and that’s ok. However, trying to be consistent is important as this will turn the act in to a habit. Even if it’s just a few bullet points at the end of the week it will make all the difference over the long term. Start small and remind yourself of it’s importance. It can also help to make yourself accountable and pairing up with a friend or a fellow volunteer can be a great motivator. If available take the opportunity to have catch ups with your volunteer manager and ask them to have your reflect.

So there are our tips for starting a journal and how to make the most out of it. Have you already started one? How has it helped you?

This blog originally appeared on the LSE Careers blog.

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