Paul mentioned this new book soon to be released by Seb Hunter (of Rock me Amadeus fame) that tells of his sometime hilarious experiences in the world of volunteering. I also have a little story regarding my recent experience here in Auckland.
As a disclaimer, let me first stress the following:
Volunteerism is big in NZ, the poster at the offices of Volunteer Auckland mentions a figure in excess of a million volunteers countrywide. That’s remarkable considering the total population is around four million.
Kiwis are justifiably very proud of this tradition. I in no way want to discredit the good work done by so many people.
In the absence of any concrete offers for paid work, I decided some time ago to offer business analysis, process modeling and/or application development services voluntarily. It’s a good idea. I get an entrance into the marketplace, it closes the gap in my cv, i practice my trade, very likely learn new things, it allows me to gather local references that would be useful when a potential employer eventually considers my application for paid work.
I easily found various volunteering possibilities on the local websites.
I selected three jobs in Auckland, one to develop a database for a cattery using MS-Access (yech, but i can do it), another to automate unsubscribe functionality for a community website, and another to build an intranet of employee profiles and contact details for someone. There were many others but remote – Wellington, Canterbury, Dunedin, Christchurch, Napier, Invercargill, Hawke’s Bay.
This looked great, many ways there to be useful, especially two of them, both located in the south, near Manukau City where Colleen works, so i could easily get there as needed. I emailed the contact addresses provided, making sure to include reference numbers for each position.
That was in early September, Sunday the 6th. On Monday i packed up some stuff and drove down to the Bay of Islands for a short holiday.
On Thursday, back in Auckland, having had no response i called them. Noone knew anything about the applications sent, “…we don’t always get to read our emails…“. Also this was the first time i was offered the rationale “…you know, we’re all volunteers here…“. Ah so. Anyway, an appointment was made for Tuesday, no not next Tuesday, but for the following week, 11 days hence, “…first thing in the morning…“, which turned out to be 09h45.
On 22 September i have my appointment during which the interviewer tells me that they themselves have a proposal (with high level scope and requirements specification) for a revamp of their own website. The proposal has been lying fallow since May because they couldn’t find anyone to volunteer for this, and they were now considering actually paying for this.
She showed me the summary brief and i got very excited. This was a substantial piece of work, and i was confident i could do it, given the chance. They had an intitial deadline for middle of the year, and now late September, not having started anything they were still hoping to see something before year-end.
I volunteered straightaway. The interviewer said i would have to discuss the actual status of all this with the CEO who was away until Thursday. I was asked to call her then.
On Thursday i called their offices at around 08h30. The recorded message informed me that they were open to the public between 09h00 and 15h00. Fair enough, i called again at 09h15 and heard the same recorded message. Third call 09h35, still just this recorded fiction of their opening hours.
I called again after ten and now they were up and running, but the CEO was not yet in the office, still on her way from the airport… “… she should be in by 11h00 for our staff meeting, so she won’t be available until 13h00. Can i perhaps be of assistance?” So i told her i was keen to find out more about this need they had for a website developer, that i was qualified, that i was available, that i was volunteering, etc.
“Oh yes, we’ve waiting for more than 5 years now …you know, we’re all volunteers here…, but it looks like this year something will happen. I think they are going to hire a project manager. I don’t really know the details. But do call back later.”
I call back again at 13h15.
To be continued…