Volunteering lets me help others while developing interpersonal skills
This post is part of our peer counselor Q&A series which shares the perspectives of our talented volunteers. Deborah is an Empower Work volunteer and career counselor for college students. When she's not using her counseling skills to help others, she's usually spending time with her family or enjoying one of her creative hobbies.
What inspired you to become a volunteer?
We've all had moments of frustration at work and needed someone to talk to. I was excited to find an organization striving to address this through the use of technology. The peer counselor role was a perfect fit—I get to help others with struggles they may face at work while further developing my interpersonal skills.
What was the most valuable part of the training experience for you?
I loved learning different ways to navigate conversations with the texters. Initially, I felt like I needed to have all the answers, or fix the problem. But Empower Work's training strongly emphasizes empowering texters through questions, not advising. I found this to be valuable even outside of my volunteer shifts. The training has carried over into my personal relationships offline and now I'm an even better listener and friend.
How has your volunteer experience changed how you operate at work and/or in your life?
Two things have happened since I've started volunteering. First, I've become more resilient at work knowing that there are support services like Empower Work. Second, I see how I'm using the training in my in-person conversations with friends, colleagues, and even family. I'm less likely to start advising individuals to do this or that. Instead, I ask them questions, help the person come up with options and empower them to make decisions.
Why do you think accessible, confidential work support is so important? What would you tell other people thinking about becoming volunteers?
Confidentiality is so important because there's so much risk associated with discussing workplace issues. Anonymity allows people to express themselves freely, without fear of losing their jobs, or being scrutinized. Empower Work is a valuable resource for everyone, but I think it's a necessity for people from underrepresented groups.
For individuals who want to volunteer, I'd recommend trying out Empower Work with a real issue they’re facing. Experiencing the resource first hand as a texter can give you additional context as a peer counselor.