Thursday, February 23, 2012

How Volunteering Can Help Your Resume

This week's post is written by Kai K. Harvey, sophomore economics major at CU-Boulder.

The recovering state of the economy and dire job-outlook may seem intimidating to college students. However, there is good news. If you take initiative early in your college career, your job outlook will drastically improve when you graduate. Having work experience, leadership experience, and volunteer experience will go a long way in helping you find a job.

The first goal is to find a starting point. Most undergrads don’t have much work experience, especially in professional environments. This makes gaining acceptance into the best internship programs a difficult task because there isn’t much on your resume quite yet. But don’t worry, this is where volunteering can really help you get experience and build your resume, leading you closer to the internship of your dreams later down the road.

If you’re interested in politics, for example, volunteering for a political campaign or a grassroots organization is a great way to demonstrate to employers that you are passionate about your future field of work. Alternatively, volunteering at a homeless shelter or a retirement home shows that you care deeply about helping others, which is something employers look for in job candidates.

Building strong relationships with the people you volunteer with will only further what you gain from the experience. These people could be potential references for future jobs or internships and could even help you network your way into an interview.

When I first began my job search, I applied to about eight different businesses, but I did not get a single call back. The problem was my lack of work experience apart from taking care of my neighbor’s dog. I decided the best way to quickly build my resume was through volunteer work.

I spent about two months volunteering for a childcare organization as well as a summer camp for underprivileged children. Through these experiences I gained skills in problem solving, communication and leadership. With this experience now on my resume, employers could see that I had the ability to work hard and stick to my commitments.

Now my resume was stronger, and I also had two solid references from fellow volunteers. In addition, the skills I learned through my charity work gave me the confidence boost I needed to succeed in interviews, so I tried applying for more jobs. This time I was quickly hired at a local restaurant.

Luckily there many available volunteer opportunities, so it should be easy to find something that relates to your field of interest. Even if the charity doesn’t apply to your dream job in the future, volunteering is a great way to build your resume and yourself as a person! Local opportunities can be found through CU’s Volunteer Resource Center, or through our website, which offers the chance volunteer abroad.

Now you have some information about how to make yourself a more competitive applicant for job and internship positions. . In order to have a chance at a more selective internship, you should to start building up some basic experience. The best way to “get your foot in the door” is to start small and work up. In other words, take those small volunteer opportunities now to prepare yourself for the big internships later.