By Patrizia Vassallo
Have you ever stared at your resume thinking, “Man, I haven’t added anything new to this in over a year!”? For those of you that can say no to that question – great, keep up the good work. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to rock an awesome internship or simply don’t have many work or outside-of-class experiences, then volunteering is the perfect solution. However, even if you do have an outstanding resume, volunteering can only help you personally and professionally.
When determining where to contribute your time, it is important to remember to do something that will leave you with a sense of fulfillment and benevolence. Volunteer for an organization or a cause that you support or are passionate about.
It also wouldn’t hurt to do some strategic volunteering – using your time and energy for helping the community and helping yourself professionally. Strategic volunteering can be handled in two ways:
- You want your time spent volunteering to highlight your professional skills, but you are unsure of how to do that. For whichever organization you want to volunteer for, simply taking the initiative and asking for a leadership position or something with more responsibilities can do the trick.
- After researching a prospective agency or business, you learn that said employer supports a certain cause. Volunteering for an organization that supports the same cause will stand out to that employer by showing you care about similar issues and may place you higher on their interview callback list. (YES!)
Whether you decide to volunteer for the sake of helping out and fulfilling your altruistic needs or you are more selective in how and where you volunteer, it will still do wonders for your resume. Besides adding something fresh and recent to the mix, volunteer work on a resume can distinguish you from other candidates (sound like familiar advice from all of our AAF recruiting events?). Employers want the best of the bunch and what better way to show you are THE best than by volunteering.
Four reasons why volunteering is a must for your resume:
- It shows that you are open to new experiences
- It shows you have a sense of community and your ability to collaborate towards a common goal
- It demonstrates your willingness to take initiative
- It demonstrates that you have interests beyond the classroom
According to Jason Willett, director of communications at VolunteerMatch, “Mentioning volunteerism-related skills that are relevant to the professional world is one of the best ways to position yourself for a new career field.” A few valued professional skills that volunteer work can highlight include self-motivation, leadership, planning and coordinating projects, as well as the ability to work in a team.
Furthermore, a survey conducted by LinkedIn found that 41 percent of employers consider volunteer work as important as paid work and that 20 percent said they have made a hiring decision based on volunteer work. Due to these findings, LinkedIn added a field for members to list their volunteer work on their profiles this past September.
LinkedIn spokeswoman Krista Canfield stated, “It was the most requested field. People realize that one way to nudge ahead of the competition is through volunteer work. In this economy, you don’t have to sit on the couch. Go find a nonprofit that needs help and build a skill set while doing good.”
Now, where to begin your volunteering adventures, you ask? The options available are truly extensive. Below are some ideas for volunteering on campus and in the Champaign-Urbana community.
AAF Community Outreach
Community Outreach is the perfect committee to be involved in to give back to the community and participate in a variety of volunteer experiences.
A great way to raise money for the American Cancer Society is by participating in the Relay for Life on April 14-15. Take initiative and volunteer for the event or at the least show your support for the cause by signing up yourself and all of your friends. (Signing up through Community Outreach is free!
If interested in joining their team, contact Lauren Feingold at firstname.lastname@example.org for specific directions. For more information regarding Community Outreach in general contact Lauren, Amanda Nieman at email@example.com, or Liz Tucci at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternative Spring Break (ASB)
How does offering a helping hand in California, New York, or a number of other states outside of Illinois sound to you? ASB sends students to provide services in a variety of destinations four times a year during fall, winter, spring, and summer breaks.
ASB is concerned with a wide spectrum of issues from homelessness and poverty to healthcare and the environment. There is an application process involved for each trip; however, the opportunities ASB offers are impressive and you can find specific details for each trip on their website.
Habitat for Humanity
The University of Illinois has their very own Habitat for Humanity campus chapter whose mission is to “end substandard housing in partnership with the campus, local, and global communities by connecting with families, educating, building, and fundraising.”
You can join the Habitat team through the website provided above and there you will also find a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Big Brother and Big Sisters
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Champaign County believes all children have the ability to achieve success in life. As an organization, BBBS strives to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
More information for signing up to be a “Big” and volunteer in other ways can be found on their website.
Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club of Champaign
This organization is committed to inspiring, stimulating, and improving the minds and lives of children in the community. By volunteering here, you can teach, mentor, and coach children of the C-U community, partake in fundraising events, and help improve their facilities.
For opportunities in volunteering, refer to the “Ways You Can Help” section on their website.
To find more opportunities in the Champaign-Urbana area and/or other communities visit:
Remember, volunteering can be used as a way to define yourself as well as communicate to your prospective employer about who you are what you stand for. It is also perfect for highlighting skill sets that could be transferred into a competitive work arena.