This blog is part of our #WhatsNext series for former volunteers, inspired by the What’s Next Notebook resource from Catholic Volunteer Network and Catholic Apostolate Center. In each blog, we will explore helpful tips for looking back on your volunteer experience, saying goodbye, determining your next steps, and sustaining your spiritual growth during the transition to “life after volunteering.”
Full-time service often leaves a lifelong imprint on those who volunteer, and sometimes it takes years of reflection and prayer for the impact to be fully understood. This is an important time to both look back on what you’ve experienced and look ahead to what is next. But before you can determine exactly what’s next, it is important to know how far you have come. In today’s blog, we invite you to take some time to look back and see how your service experience has changed you.
Re-Entry Self Evaluation
The following questions are intended to be thought-provoking and to facilitate reflection on how the experience of service has impacted your life. We suggest that you take a moment to find a quiet spot and enjoy this opportunity for reflection as you begin to look toward the future.
Take some time to reflect on the questions in each section that follows. If you need more space, record your thoughts in a journal or other permanent place where you will be able to reference it later. These are tough questions, so you should not expect to adequately reflect on them all in one sitting.
Prayer: God of grace, thank you for your sustaining love and gentle strength. You have guided me through the ups and downs over the past year and have molded me in unexpected ways. I pray that you continue to speak to me and that your will for my life may become clear. I pray that I may move forward as a changed person, that my heart may be drawn closer to you, and that my soul may be at peace with the uncertainty of the future.
Getting Started: Take a few minutes to reflect on how you are feeling right now. You may be excited, nervous, peaceful, grieving – or all of the above! Begin by journaling or reflecting about these emotions. Try to identify their root causes and acknowledge their value in the transition process.
- What professional skills did you utilize as a volunteer? Write a brief job description emphasizing tasks done and specific skills required. What new skills did you gain? What projects or accomplishments are you most proud of? What tasks did you enjoy most?
- What skills and talents would you like to continue to develop? How could you do this?
- Who are the important people you worked with at your placement site? List their names, job titles, and contact information.
- How have your personal goals changed or developed since you began your volunteer experience? What are your personal goals now? In the next five years?
- What do you need to obtain/achieve in order to move towards these goals?
- How easy/difficult has it been to share your volunteer experience with your friends and family? What would you like to share with them? How can you do this?
- As a volunteer, what opportunities have helped you learn more about yourself? What have you learned? How can you continue to know yourself better?
- What have you discovered about success? For you, what does “success” look like?
- How flexible are you? How do you respond to new and unforeseen twists in plans? How do you react to unusual or unexpected requests?
- By becoming a volunteer, you chose a path uncommon to many. How do you feel about being a role model? How do you feel about having your lifestyle under scrutiny?
- What has it been like to live on very little? How do you feel being on the receiving end of others’ generosity?
- Who supported you as a volunteer? How would you like to acknowledge them? What sort of relationship would you like to maintain with them? How can you best do this?
- What have you discovered about your ability to live with others? What did you like and dislike?
- Would you live in community again? What would you look for in a new community?
Service and Ministry
- How has living in solidarity with the poor changed your understanding of poverty?
- What does service/ministry mean to you? How has your volunteer experience shaped this?
- How do you view your role in the Church? What gifts do you have to share?
- Through this experience, what justice issues have you become most passionate about?
- How has this experience changed your relationship with God? How has your prayer life/spiritual journey changed?
- What elements of spiritual growth would you like to maintain after the service experience is over?
We hope these questions are helpful as you begin the process of unpacking and reflecting on your experiences. As discussed above, this process can take a long time – so go gently and don’t rush yourself! It may be helpful to revisit these questions over the course of the next week, leaving plenty of time for thought and prayerful consideration.
Thank you for diving into our #WhatsNext series! Next week, we will explore the theme of Saying Goodbye, in which we will discuss how finding a sense of closure enables us to move forward.
Be sure to register and receive all our resources for former volunteers, including the What’s Next Notebook and our Weekly Job Bank, by clicking here!