A lot of articles are dedicated to emphasizing how important volunteering is, especially when it comes to students with little or no work experience. At the very least, volunteering gives you an opportunity to gain new friends, contribute to the community, and experience to put on a resume... you name it. As an international student in my first year, I was very excited about the idea of co-ops and internships. However, I did not have any work experience to showcase that I could perform a job or point out how I developed skills. My best bet at the time was to turn to volunteering. A lot of interesting volunteer positions required experience so I took on a couple things that interested me and later helped me to land a more challenging and enriching volunteer position. Little did I know at that point that that particular experience along with another volunteer position would play the biggest role (much bigger role than work experience) in helping me land my first co-op job. What made the volunteer experience so special in the hiring decision, you may wonder? Well, here is the answer:
Unique Experience: Some experience cannot easily be obtained through regular reception, retail, or waitressing experience. For example, event planning, marketing, tour guiding, and more experiences, are only achievable either through work that requires years of relevant experience or volunteering that exposes you to those functions. For example, during an interview for a marketing coordinator position, you can refer to a related volunteer position and describe what you achieved and learnt.
Industry Knowledge: According to research, most jobs (including co-ops and internships) are generated in a business-to-business setting rather than business-to-consumer (retail and food places). As two examples, let’s say you are partaking in a volunteer marketing research project, or you do outreaches describing proactive and reactive alternatives about a health issue for a promotional campaign at school. Sure enough, you are going to have an advantage over somebody who does not have this industry knowledge.
Industry Networking: It cannot be emphasized more how many jobs are only advertised to volunteers and internal employees. This hidden job market helps many people to either land entry-level jobs or internships upon graduation solely because they exhibited a high level of performance and enthusiasm during their volunteer involvement.
As seen in the reasons outlines above, volunteering is much more than just some experience to add to your resume or an opportunity to make some new friends. Just a little thing to keep in mind, don’t restrict yourself to one campus, place, or field. You never know what brilliant opportunities could come from that volunteer position you thought wouldn’t be a much of contribution to your skills/resume!