Internships and Volunteering: Unpaid Work with Priceless Outcomes


“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
–Winston Churchill

Consider me a saleswoman for Volunteerism – Or the president of the Internship fan club. I genuinely believe that some of the most important social changes come about because of volunteers. I have been consistently volunteering my time for six years now and it has been THE most valuable thing I have done for my career, in addition to giving me unlimited warm, fuzzy feelings of goodness. People volunteer because they have oodles of free time, or they need some glitz for a college application; someone may volunteer for an organization that helped them when they needed it, or they intend to get hired at the organization they intern for. And some people volunteer because it feels like the right thing to do [gasp]. Whatever the motive may be for giving your time to an organization or a cause — I promise you will gain more, exponentially more, than you give. I have volunteered my time for student government, a rape crisis center, a domestic violence shelter, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, SLC Feminist, an IRB, Utah NOW, and the University of Utah’s sociology department. My resume as a volunteer includes titles such as: student body vice president; rape crisis advocate; domestic violence shelter advocate; community educator; contributing writer; prisoner representative; vice president of actions; and panel presider.

While I have volunteered hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of my time to the organizations listed above and I have so much to show for those unpaid hours. I actually believe I have more to show for my unpaid work than the paid work I’ve done in my life. My paid work gets me material items but my volunteer work has been the real catalyst for my career and personal growth and the thread connecting me to my enormous social network. My paid work funds my TJ Maxx addiction but my volunteer work got me a meeting with a Senator, an opportunity to pitch a progressive study, a dozen awards, a genuine connection to strangers, and the passion to pursue a PhD.

As a saleswoman for Volunteerism, here’s my pitch: A) Make a list of the things you care about and write down the social injustices that piss you off. B) Do some research about organizations in your area that are involved with the things on your list. C) Contact them and tell them you are interested in volunteering. D) Enjoy your new, warm-fuzzy-feel-goods and change the world while you’re at it.

If you have questions about volunteering, e-mail me at and we’ll chat. And if you are a University of Utah student and are interested in a Diversity Internship through the sociology department for Spring 2014, e-mail me and enroll in SOC 3393.

Cheers Volunteers!


  1. Word. I’m inspired.

  2. Volunteering is awesome. I’ve heard of a lot of problems with companies take advantage of unpaid interns, though. My rule of thumb: if there’s profit being made, it ought to be shared fairly.

  3. I think it is important to have a contract of some sort describing the interns duties and the responsibilities of the organization so no one gets screwed and everyone wins. When the plan is on paper, it’s easier to be protected from poopy take-advantagers.

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