Don’t Forget to Volunteer!

My first volunteering experience was when I was in middle school. I was in National Junior Honor Society, and like National Honor Society in high school, we had to get in a certain number of volunteer hours. I spent most of my time that school year at the local library, helping with computer sign-in, checking younger kids’ homework, and shelving books. It also fulfilled the dream my much younger self had of being a librarian some day. Now that I’m in college, I, and students like me, always hear that it is a great idea to intern and volunteer, but a lot of people seem to forget the “volunteer” part of that statement. For some students, the job doesn’t seem worth putting on your resume if you can’t add the word “intern” after your title. However, that is not the case!

This week, I had an opportunity to have my resume checked over at the Career Center by a representative from COUNTRY Financial. I usually put a lot of work into my resume so I wasn’t expecting to have my work completely redone. But after meeting with him, I was even more grateful for his time to edit what I had written.

He pointed to my Activities and Honors section and asked, “How many of these organizations were volunteer work?”

The thought hadn’t really occurred to me. Weren’t employers more interested in my internships, on-campus jobs, and leadership experience. Pointing out volunteer work seemed to just be like jotting down a hobby I enjoy that was nice, but not really relevant to my application. I listed off the organizations that I had volunteered with, including my church, a local free trade store, a national U.S. soldier organization, and the Relay for Life.

“It would probably be a good idea to write that you were a volunteer,” he said.

“Is it really that important?” I asked. “I have the organizations written down.”

“Well, yes,” he answered, “but employers really like to see what volunteer work you have done in addition to everything else. You should probably consider making an entirely different section of just that.”

Once I thought it over, it made sense. Volunteering, aside from just being a wonderful thing that all people should do if they have time, shows that you are committed to things important to you, even if there is not an incentive involved. Generally, if you are devoting free time to something, you are making it known that thing is important to you, whether it’s a person, a hobby, a place, or an activity you enjoy doing. So when you take the time to volunteer for a local after-school club, for example, you are signaling to employers that helping your community grow and the children within it become better people is something you strongly value. And employers are obviously interested in their employee’s values.

So next time you are thinking about what else you could do to improve your resume (and yourself at the same time!) consider picking up a volunteer job nearby. There are always places that could use extra helping hands, and in the end, you might find a new passion or career direction.

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