It’s college graduation season, and many recent grads are contemplating what they will do next. For some that means continuing with graduate school, but for many it means taking everything learned in the past four years and using it to pursue a career. Regardless, this is a time full of decisions seemingly greater in importance than those made four years ago when graduating from high school. Graduates are faced with finding jobs, managing thousands of dollars in student loans, finding a house or apartment to move out from your parent’s house, and starting a life after college. The first step in most of this is finding a job to support yourself, but for many graduates it helps to have a resume built on a valuable, well-rounded experience in addition to a college degree.
Going to college should not just be listening to lectures and studying; it should be an experience where students gain the skills and experience they will need for life after graduation. One way to gain experience is through volunteerism. Even before college, many students begin volunteering to meet a graduation requirement, apply to an award or scholarship program, or to build their college applications. However, volunteering does not end here, and most students who volunteer in high school continue to do so in college. This is because volunteering is both rewarding and beneficial.
Here are a few ways volunteering can help current students, graduates and job-seekers alike:
1. Improve as a person: Volunteering doesn’t have to be just about pursuing a career. Volunteers also make friends, become more outgoing, and learn to appreciate the things they have and the people they care about. Many volunteers just want to make a difference and feel good that they contributed to the community. According to the United States Department of Labor, 42.2% of college graduates over the age of 25 volunteered, and that number is slowly rising. While many volunteers start out with a specific goal in mind, most will find volunteerism rewarding and valuable and, for this reason, continue to be engaged in their communities with it beyond graduation.
2. Become a well-rounded individual: Volunteerism can help boost a resume for graduates seeking to build their experience in their chosen field. For job-seeking graduates, a history of volunteerism shows employers that you are well rounded and involved in the community. Being able to say you built houses with Habitat for Humanity or helped with disaster relief efforts says that you are concerned with something beyond yourself. It demonstrates a sense of initiative that cannot be seen in simply listing a university name and degree.
3. Earn experience and skills: Volunteering creates a host of experiences you can talk about in interviews. Many graduates are just starting out and have little experience, but being able to talk about volunteer experiences can improve your chances and prove that you will make a valuable employee. Countless applicants can talk about the courses they took and things they learned in university, but potential employers already have that knowledge and experiences. Some important skills you’ll pick up by volunteering include teamwork, empathy, communication, commitment and leadership; all of which are qualities employers look for and experiences you can share during an interview. Whatever your volunteer experience was, your story and background will stand out.
4. Jumpstart your career: Sometimes it’s easier to find work experience pertaining to your career in the form of a volunteer opportunity than a part time position you can maintain while studying. Do a little searching or contact the career center at your university to find out about volunteer or internship programs that will jumpstart you in developing your skillset for your career. You’ll also develop contacts in your field that may be able to help you find a job later when you graduate or can serve as valuable references when you apply to other companies.
5. Contribute to something you are passionate about: Perhaps you were strayed away from less “profitable” degrees in your college search by your parents or teachers and asked to pursue other interests and talents. There’s still a chance to keep in touch with the things you enjoy doing. Volunteering doesn’t have to be a chore like studying and attending class; it should be connected to a cause that interests you. When looking for volunteer opportunities near you, find something you’ll enjoy and commit to.
Congratulations to the class of 2013! Make sure to become a NobleHour citizen to begin measuring the number of hours and the impact of your service work. Use this to show employers the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to a cause that’s important to you, and then share how your story impacted the community and makes you stand out as a recent graduate. Track your Noble Impact here on NobleHour and see how it will enhance your life after graduation.