The Community to Career Continuum: When Volunteers Get Hired Full-Time

By Brittany Trilford

While many students think of their volunteer experiences as extracurricular, many NYU Abu Dhabi alumni are springboarding their experiences into meaningful and impactful careers. Volunteer positions are gateways into communities, and thus career opportunities. Dispelling the myth that paid work experience is the only experience that counts in the eyes of a prospective employer and proving that passion pays, alumni Sneha Gyawali and Milica Gajic were hired full-time at the New England Center for Children after volunteering at the center during their time at NYUAD.

Gyawali, a psychology major, now a therapist at the New England Center for Children, explains, “At NYUAD, I loved being a part of initiatives that empowered people and built a sense of community, whether it was co-directing a leadership program for young girls, or organizing beach cleanups. Now, I’m very happy to be part of an organization that is uplifting the lives of young children with autism, and I am thankful that my experiences at NYUAD always pushed me to find opportunities for social impact.”

Social responsibility and impact are core to many of the academic programs at NYUAD with much of the course curriculum dedicated to the personal and professional development that is integral to working with communities in need.

Sneha Gyawali, Class of 2019.
Milica Gajic, Class of 2019.

Many employers view meaningful volunteer experiences as equivalent to formal work experiences. Skills are skills, and volunteering offers a form of hands-on training that can take you far in the workplace. Gajic, also a therapist at the New England Center for Children, explains that her now full-time position wouldn't have been possible without her volunteer experiences.

“The company’s requirement for my current role is two years of professional working experience. My active engagement in facilitating workshops for Girls Education Network (GEN), volunteering at the Future Center and Somali Cultural center, and acting as a peer counselor in REACH over my time at NYUAD successfully fulfilled this requirement.” Gajic recommends that her experience of securing this position serves as an example of “the importance of remaining open to opportunities, being proactive, and having clearly defined goals.”

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