The Importance of Volunteering

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At 18.4 percent, 20 to 24 year olds have the lowest rate of volunteering among all other age groups in the United States. At this age, students find themselves struggling to keep up with the everyday mundane routine of school, work, school, and more work. They put so much effort into the betterment of their professional futures so that one day they can land their dream job. For many students, the value of volunteering cannot compare to the value of furthering a career.

What students don’t always realize is that volunteering is a crucial step in preparing for the professional world. According to a Fortune and Deloitte study on volunteering, 82 percent of interviewers say “they prefer applicants with volunteer experience,” and 92 percent say “volunteering builds leadership skills.” However, only about one in three job seekers include volunteer activities on their resume, when in reality those personal experiences could be the one thing that sets them apart from all the other applicants. Not only does volunteering help others, it also helps students both personally and professionally.

Business administration senior Nicole Woo has found that volunteering her time at an unpaid internship actually paid really well. While working for a small nonprofit called Junior Achievement, she found that the experiences she gained were priceless. Her job was to help teach children from Kindergarten through twelfth grade financial and economic literacy, but her experience did not stop there.

Not only did she educate children who could someday grow up to be businessmen and women, she was exposed to executives and mentorship whose advice went a long way. Woo not only developed effective leadership skills through this learning experience, she became a proactive problem solver when things didn’t go as planned in her internship. The most important piece of advice from her mentor however, was to use the internship on her resume to show future employers her value as a professional businesswoman. Learning how to convey volunteer experience to a future employer in a professional way is an important skill that Woo was lucky to develop.

“The internship helped me speak to executives in a more professional manner,” Woo said, noting that she had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of executives. Although her experience is personal, she was able to leverage her unpaid internship and show employers that volunteerism is a valuable asset to possess.

Companies around the world are focusing more and more on social responsibility and incorporating volunteerism into their business agenda, not just for executives, but for everyone. Goldman Sachs is a company committed to corporate engagement and financially encourages philanthropic programs and initiatives. Through their Community TeamWorks program, a program in which everyday employees volunteer their time, the 10,000 Women initiative provides women entrepreneurs around the world with education, mentoring and networking in the business world.

But the volunteering shouldn’t start once you’ve landed a job at a socially responsible company. It should start right now in college.

Cal Poly graduate and AmeriCorps employee Heather Runzel used college as a time to find her passion in life and volunteer her time through the Student Community Services program at Cal Poly. This program acts as a gateway for students to establish themselves in a volunteer program they are passionate about.

“The program allowed me to learn about amazing resources and opportunities in the local San Luis Obispo community,” Runzel said. “I was able to volunteer while also getting more professional administrative skills.”

AmeriCorps comes from the Corporation for National and Community Service and is a part of the nation’s largest grantmaker for service and volunteering. Although it is not a for-profit company, Runzel believes that her time working for them has been a perfect combination of preparation and coordination for her future employment because of her leadership role within Americorps. Because of her volunteer opportunities at Cal Poly, she has been able to excel in serving others, as well as prepare herself for a professional career.

One of the most important things for college students to remember is to find their passion, follow it and then devote time to helping others. Volunteering may sound like a difficult task when faced with so many other obligations as a student, but the benefits that stem from volunteerism, as well as the preparedness and real world value of helping others, are worth the time put in.

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