I entered the world of formal volunteering when I was in 7th grade. There was a government run ‘Each one Teach one’ program in which our school had partnered. Students were encouraged to stay for one hour after school in help in adult education classes. I don’t know if I had a truly altruistic motive in joining it or maybe I just wanted to shine in my teacher’s eyes. I was just a kid! But it did hook me to volunteering in education. Later in college, I started volunteering at the local municipality school to take extra sessions for students weak in Mathematics, Science and English.
I didn’t even mention it in my résumé when we entered placements. I had decent grades, I was part of athletics team and I took part in cultural events. I felt all boxes were crossed. But during the interview, they asked me about life outside the campus and what did I do. And I simply mentioned about taking extra classes for students in the municipality school. Little did I know that the interview changed after that. Instead of asking me technical questions, they actually asked me question on how did I manage students, how did I find different ways of explaining the same thing to different students. Once I also volunteered as a mathematics teacher to a visually challenged students and they were more interested in the techniques I used to teach him the concept of equations and variables.
This was third year internship interview. I got the internship. I wouldn’t say entirely because of my volunteering but looking back I know it played a strong role when it finally came to decision point for the interviewer. After 2 months of internship, I was offered a pre-placement job to join them after I complete my final year. Technically I was the first person to be placed in my batch.
I completely overlooked the importance of volunteering in my résumé. I only have the interviewer to thank for asking me. Since then I have always advised my juniors to include volunteering in their resumes. It makes common sense.
The age-old sentiment — volunteering is good for you and good for others — holds true always. You are enhancing your skills beyond your college degree and your social and professional network that may make you a better candidate for certain jobs.
But apart from helping communities and teaching the volunteer new skills; to a recruiter,
volunteering shows a student’s commitment to fulfil obligations.
“I do recruiting for revenue-generating positions, so I’m looking for people with high drive — and it takes drive to go out and fulfil an obligation doing something that you are not getting paid for,” said Claudio, recruiting manager, Times-Union Media in Jacksonville. (source: jacksonville.com)
It does not only make common sense. I recently came across this empirical study- Volunteering as a Pathway to employment by Corporation for National and Community Service, on the relationship between volunteering and employment. After a 10 year study with more than 70000 individuals, the study found that
volunteering is associated by a 27% higher odds of employment.
27% is huge. Volunteering sometimes is the difference maker when recruiters are finally making the offer.
Not just as a student, volunteering helped me make my career switch. After 6 years of working as an electrical engineer designing circuits going in mobile phones, I switched to social work. But it didn’t happen overnight. By then, I had volunteered as a teacher and an aide in different special education programs for over 10 years now and it just made me realise what I enjoyed more. And even though I didn’t have a formal degree right then, I did have the experience and it counted when I went looking for jobs in non-profit sector.
Career counsellors also advice that in addition to volunteering experience, also mention why you chose the particular volunteering opportunity and how it helped the organisation in achieving their goals.
What is interesting is that the findings are consistent through time and economic conditions and across gender, ethnicity and age. These finding also suggest that non-profit organisations looking to recruit volunteers should reach out to students. They can approach school management and partner with schools to make special age-specific volunteering programs in line with their mission and the schools objectives. For colleges, organisations can also approach student career representatives and make presentations of their work and volunteering opportunities.
As a student, volunteering helped in get my first job after college as well as my first job after I decided to switch careers. As an employee of a non-profit organisation, student volunteers were few of the long term volunteers I had the pleasure to work with. They joined as students but they continued to volunteer even after they joined professional work.
Both the students and non-profit organisation stand to gain by exploring volunteering but the most important point is not to enter volunteering with the mindset of it helping us achieve a future goal. Volunteers should first and foremost be happy while volunteering and whatever benefits it brings is a plus.