You may have done some community service as a high school student to improve your application for college, but why should you continue to volunteer in college? Believe it or not, surrendering some of your free time to serve others can benefit you as you prepare for a career.
People of all ages, cultures and industries, volunteer. Depending on where you serve, you will have the opportunity to interact with others who are active in the community, which will enable you to learn more about local companies, popular industries and other networking events. You could end up standing right next to a CEO. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Get to know them and let them get to know you.
Don’t discount the staff at nonprofit organizations either. If you do a good job, you’ll earn their respect and they can serve as references in the future. They may also have important contacts they can refer you to when you’re ready to begin job hunting. Nonprofit board members are often company and community leaders.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to try out new jobs. You may realize that you want to use your degree to pursue a career different than the one you had in mind. You are rarely locked into a volunteer position the way you are a job, so use your time to explore interests. Offer to help out in different areas that interest you.
Volunteering abroad has become very popular. You can volunteer internationally for as little as 1-2 weeks, and many international volunteer programs include language classes or tours as part of your trip. Volunteering in a new place shows that you aren’t afraid to try something new to support a cause you believe in.
Volunteering is a great way to learn skills you wouldn’t otherwise. You may have the opportunity to write, learn computer programs , manage a marketing campaign, or plan an event. These are all skills that will be incredibly valuable to a future employer and the hands-on experience you gain through volunteering will not go unnoticed. These experiences can be used as examples in future interview situations.
If you notice another volunteer or a staff member doing something you’re interested in, ask them if you could spend an extra hour shadowing them to learn that particular skill. See if there’s a class you could attend or a certification they recommend. You’ll likely impress them with your eagerness to learn.
A greater purpose
Your volunteer role doesn’t have to be all about the future. It can benefit your life the day you start, simply by giving you something to focus on outside of school. It’s unhealthy to focus so intensely on grades that you forget the world around you.
Use your volunteer time to lift yourself up. As you begin to interact with those you’re serving, notice the difference you’re making just by giving your time. Is the event you’re serving at raising money for those in great need? Is the food you’re passing out nourishing bodies? Is tutoring providing an underprivileged child with the hope that he or she also can go to college one day? Allow yourself to feel good about what you’re doing and to realize that you can in fact make a difference.
Volunteering may ultimately be about serving others, but the work you do will always benefit you as well. Use the valuable time you are given as a student to learn more about yourself and the world around you.