“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a Career Advisor, I often work with students who are dismayed by the resume writing process. They don’t have experience directly relevant to their field of interest, and it seems like they need experience to get that experience. Before I learned about career development and targeting resumes to specific opportunities, I thought this way too. How do I get a job if I need a job to get a job?
But there are tons of ways to gain experience in your field or to develop transferable skills that you would use in almost any field. It’s all a matter of how to frame your experience to show potential employers that you have the skills you need to do the work. You can do internships, seasonal temporary jobs, on-campus jobs, and join student organizations. You can do undergraduate research or start your own small company. The avenue I’d like to advocate for today, in light of the upcoming holiday celebrating the incredible inspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr., is to volunteer.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” With this statement, he was calling on all of us to step forward and serve. If you get involved in community service, you will help others. You will forge lasting and rewarding relationships. And others will teach you incredible lessons about their lives and what needs to change in this world to make it better.
Think about the skills you already have that you could offer. Are you great at designing websites? Organizing people? Planning events? Fundraising? Working with children? Do you have particular expertise that a nonprofit or human services organization would find useful? Offer that expertise up to an organization and commit some of your time to their work. Or, on the other hand, do you want to learn more about a specific area within human services or what environmental nonprofits do? Offer your volunteer hours to an organization in that field and commit to doing whatever the organization needs. I would be willing to bet that you will probably get more out of the experience than you ever thought possible. It will surprise you how much you will learn, about yourself and what you are capable of accomplishing, as well as the field you volunteer in. And you will be helping others and the world in the process.
The added bonus is that you can easily record this information on your resume, highlighting any transferrable skills or knowledge that relates to the positions you apply for. These volunteer experiences show employers a lot about you. They show a lot about your character and the values you hold. They show a ton about your work ethic and ability to multitask, juggling school and volunteering responsibilities. They also can show, dependent on the organization you work with and the work you do, relevant skills for your field of interest. In addition, you will build a network of people who can be a support to you in your job search and may offer referrals or connect you to colleagues. Finally, your volunteer experiences will teach you amazing things about how to work and communicate effectively with others who may be different from you, which is a skill you need in any workplace. You can write about those people skills on your resume.
I hope you will take a moment this coming 3 day weekend to reflect on the ways in which you serve and could serve others, in honor of an amazing man who called on us all to do so. And I hope once you reflect on that, you decide to volunteer. A couple of events are coming up around campus that can help you make this happen. First, participate in the MLK Day of Service, sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement. In addition, February 6th, Career Services and the Center for Civic Engagement are teaming up to sponsor the Nonprofit and Volunteering Fair. Also, Career Services has a page dedicated to finding volunteer opportunities, as does the Center for Civic Engagement.
You can make a difference in the lives of others by offering your time and your skills, and you will learn and grow and develop in the process. Try it!
Posted by Jessica Baron, Graduate Assistant Career Advisor in Career Services