If ever there were a winning career-development strategy for college students, volunteering is it.
Even if you have only a few hours a month to spare, you can make a significant difference for a person or even an entire organization by offering your time and energy to causes that need help but can't pay for it. And best of all, you can boost your career at the same time.
Learn New Skills
Want to become more comfortable with public speaking? Becoming a volunteer presenter for your local humane society will give you the chance to talk to small groups of potential pet adopters. Does sales intrigue you? Making calls for your school's annual phone-a-thon to alums will teach you how to solicit financial contributions without offending or alienating anyone.
Polish Existing Skills in a Real-World Setting
Are you majoring in a foreign language? The St. Paul chapter of the American Red Cross can give you hands-on experience the classroom will never be able to simulate. The center has an ongoing need for language assistant volunteers who can interpret at local community events and translate educational materials, other documents and more.
Explore Career Options Without a Long-Term Commitment
Healthcare intrigues you, but the only jobs you know about are nurse and doctor. Volunteering at a nearby hospital or nursing home will give you a glimpse of dozens of other healthcare career options.
Make Key Professional Contacts
The woman who teaches you the ropes when you volunteer to lead downhill skiing outings for people with disabilities might someday hire you for a paid internship doing something similar and then for a permanent, full-time job at her agency. At a minimum, she'll become an outstanding professional reference as you look at other internship and job possibilities.
Finding an Opportunity
Here are some simple ways you can find the volunteer job that benefits you as much as the organization you serve:
- Ask Around Campus: Many schools have service-learning offices or volunteer centers set up specifically to help students connect with local volunteer opportunities. To learn more, check your school's Web site or stop by the campus activities or student-life office.
- Use Web-Based Search Tools: Several Web sites list volunteer opportunities online.
- Approach a Specific Organization of Interest: The elementary school two blocks from your residence hall could undoubtedly use your help with kids who are somehow struggling. Call the school's main office or stop by to ask about the possibilities.
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