A chance no one in the startup world should miss.
The writer of this post is a graduate student who calls herself a professional volunteer. Photo: Shutterstock
If you work in business, you definitely attend a lot of events. Big or small – general or niche, for the organisers they all take time and effort to be produced. That effort might be invisible to the outsider but definitely has a lot of value for those who work on it day and night.
Needless to say, startups are a hot topic these days, especially in Finland – and you can catch this momentum by volunteering for startup events. And it’s not like you don’t have a lot of opportunities for doing this – among the biggest, Finland is home for Arctic15, Nordic Business Forum and Slush, the biggest startup conference in the Nordics and the biggest event production in Finland.
Each of these events is held thanks to immense forces of volunteers who run it bringing the best possible customer service orchestrating thousands of attendees and their requests.
I have volunteered for many events in business, arts and education but my true passion for volunteering skyrocketed after my involvement in Arctic15 in May 2015. The experience I got there was amazing and so I decided to become a “professional volunteer” and signed up for even more events to try out different roles. I have been volunteering in media, info and afterparty teams; I have been a volunteer coordinator, a team leader and a volunteer. I’ve done lots of tasks from escorting speakers to handcrafting venue props and I would not regret a single commitment.
So why volunteer for startup events?
Set Yourself On A Challenge
All of the tasks volunteers do eventually boil down to customer experience – dealing with a crowd of people with different personalities, moods and requests. This will come as a challenge to you, be you a grumpy introvert or an expert in customer service. Imagine the uncertainty – during an event with hundreds or thousands of attendees many things can happen and you will have to deal with that.
Another challenge is gaining the mindset of the event: you as part of the volunteer force will represent the organisation behind the event and chances are, this is not your daily job so you’ll have to adjust very quickly.
Hardly any volunteering commitment is about minding your own business and avoiding people – in fact, it will be the opposite. You will have to interact with a multitude of people, so better overcome your fear of small talk, to say the least.
In the morning of the first day of Slush me and my fellow volunteer stood in the lobby of Messukeskus feeling the crowd of over 10 000 people coming through us. Being an introvert and a person who rarely smiles, it got me out of my comfort zone – I had to adopt the opposite kind of behaviour and keep it to the end of my shift when my legs were stiff and my face muscles tired of non-stop smiling for hours.
My advice – volunteer for the task or area that you’re least experienced in but have interest for and you’ll get the most out of it.
Help The Others
It’s in our nature to help the others and surely you’d like to be of help – events are the place to be! Just imagine that a whole event is happening thanks to you, isn’t that rewarding?
When Slush ended, I was helping the cloakroom team to help thousands of people get their coats. One attendee lost his number but I was able to find his coat anyway – that was easy – but he was very surprised and thanked me for help.
My advice – remember that even the smallest help counts – attendees know you’re doing this for free and they are always very impressed with volunteers even if you think your contribution may not be big.
Meet Great People
Naturally, as a volunteer you will meet fellow volunteers, your team leaders, volunteer coordinators, event producers and attendees – a total of hundreds and thousands of people you may become acquainted with.
Just imagine how many connections for your personal and professional life you will gain! Inevitably, you will learn from the others and find like-minded people. You will make friends with interesting individuals and if you’re active enough – your volunteer involvement may grow into something bigger, even an internship or a job!
Another great thing: you never know who you meet at startup events. It might be presidents, investors from Silicon Valley or well known speakers who come and ask you for help. I don’t believe in fate but it so happened that Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO and founder of Acumen – the speaker I wanted to see the most at Slush – ran into me and asked for guidance. By no means I expected that I would have a chance to talk to her personally and discuss one of my interests.
My advice is: talk to as many people as you can, hang out with people you don’t know, get to know fellow volunteers and don’t be afraid to approach people you admire.
Get A Kick For Your Career
Volunteering is an opportunity for you to get involved in many aspects of business life. It’s a great exercise for your working life – you will show what you can do, get a ton of experience and delve into the context of entrepreneurship.
If you’re interested in business, you can’t miss volunteering for startup events – a chance to be in the centre of the entrepreneurial ecosystem for few days, to meet the individual behind it and to talk about your ideas with all kinds of people.
A volunteer juggles a bunch of soft skills – where else will you exercise yours so much in a short, condensed period of time?
My advice – try to get the most out of volunteering. Have your own little agenda for the event. Never miss the networking part – the events are there for you to express your own interests, too. If you’re experienced in certain skills, volunteer to be a team leader – this will make your CV stand out.
On top of all of that, being a volunteer feels like you are being a part of something big, great and cool. You’ll get an avalanche of positive emotions and feel a true team spirit. If this all still doesn’t appeal to you – there’s always a minimum viable volunteer experience to keep you happy: free food, free swag, a tick in your LinkedIn profile and another reason to party!
So what are you waiting for?
Interested in volunteering for Arctic Startup? We’ve got a bunch of opportunities coming up! Do not hesitate – send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Photo: Shutterstock