By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
You may feel like your plate is already full with classes, projects, papers, work and a social life — when you can find the time — but you should also consider volunteering, whether during the semester or for the summer.
Here are five reasons why:
1. You learn a lot
Like few other experiences, volunteering helps you better understand how the world works, why problems aren’t so easily solved and what might improve issues. Employers want applicants with both book learning and soft skills.
“Employers consistently identify the following skills as most desirable: ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, communication skills (written and verbal), strong work ethic and leadership,” said Christy Huynh, SUNY Oswego’s associate director of career services.
She added that volunteering represents one way to do that.
2. You network
“Volunteering allows students to connect with professionals and organizations in a field of interest and may lead to a long-term position or a future professional reference,” Huynh said.
3. You test the waters
Huynh added that if students volunteer in the same organization, industry or role in which they’d like to work, they can “see if it is an industry or position that they can envision working in.”
4. You demonstrate your initiative
“It’s always good to volunteer because it shows you want to go above and beyond,” said Catherine Farrell, coordinator of community services at SUNY Oswego. “Oftentimes, you get a job description, but in volunteering, there’s the expectation that you’ll be flexible, work later, and work to fix problems. As a previous hiring manager, I think that says a lot about a person.”
Of course, sticking with a volunteer position long term, not just a day or two, looks better on your resume.
“It shows a degree of selflessness,” said Dan Sanderson, director of strategic planning at CPS Recruitment in Liverpool. “If it’s a first job out of college, anything to show an individual is well rounded is a positive.”
5. You grow emotionally
Volunteering can place you in circumstances and with people you could never imagine. You will better understand people and develop more sympathy from observing their struggles firsthand.
So how do you volunteer?
Catherine Farrell, coordinator of community services at SUNY Osweg, recommends asking at the school’s service learning or volunteer services department. Any nonprofit religious or civic organization will likely welcome your help; just ask.
Don’t worry if you cannot find a volunteer opportunity that aligns perfectly with your future career.
“It’s nice if it’s directly related, but volunteering always looks good on a student’s resume,” said Karen Knapik-Scalzo, associate economist with the New York Department of Labor Central New York field office. “Communication skills, taking imitative, being able to work well with others: that’s what volunteering helps develop those skills.
“It shows they’re involved in their community and going above and beyond. A lot of colleges push this and want students to volunteer, so it’s something they value to help students be well rounded.”