The Volunteer Advantage: How Helping Others Can Help Your Resume

By Neelam H. Vyas on Monday, September 16, 2013

Whether it’s manning a soup kitchen or caring for abandoned animals, volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and build relationships with community members. Volunteers are behind many of the world’s most valuable organizations, and they are making differences — big and small — every day.

The best part of volunteering is that there is a role for everybody to play, and many students can find ways to take their interests to a whole new level through volunteer work.

What's In It For You?

While volunteering is all about giving to others, you’ll receive something in return, too. Through volunteering, you can learn practical skills that can be used on an everyday basis and even on your résumé. While you may be young, your résumé is not the place to write about that rubber ducky collection you›ve been accumulating. Instead, employers want to see that you've had meaningful experiences and that you’ve learned practical skills. Volunteering can give you these.

What Are Your Options?

Especially if you have a future career in mind, volunteer opportunities can give you a leg up on your résumé with invaluable skills you can take to college and beyond. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

Especially if you have a future career in mind, volunteer opportunities can give you a leg up on your résumé with invaluable skills you can take to college and beyond. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

If medicine is in your plans, try volunteering with a hospital. Your responsibilities can range from clerical duties to interacting with patients, and you will get an insider’s knowledge of the different people and services that keep a hospital running.

  • POTENTIAL RESUME BUILDERS: “Trained in safety and privacy standards;” “interacted with patients;” “organized patient records”
  • GET IN TOUCH WITH: Local hospitals or private clinics
  • ALSO LOOK INTO: Nursing homes — responsibilities may include caring for and interacting with senior residents

If it’s a hands-on experience you’re looking for, you can’t get more down and dirty than volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, whose mission is to build houses for low-income families. Its 19 chapters around the state welcome volunteers of all skill levels for everything from hammering nails to manning a ReStore location.

  • POTENTIAL RESUME BUILDERS: “Interacted with community members;” “constructed house for local family;” “served community”
  • GET IN TOUCH WITH: Habitat for Humanity
  • ALSO LOOK INTO: Food banks — responsibilities may include starting a food drive, making relief kits or organizing and distributing food

    Homeless shelters — responsibilities may include serving meals and distributing supplies

Programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters pair you up with a younger kid who you hang out with for at least an hour every week. This experience would be a great taste of the real world if you want to be a teacher or a counselor.

  • POTENTIAL RESUME BUILDERS: “Developed one-on-one mentoring relationship,” “modeled positive study habits”
  • GET IN TOUCH WITH: Big Brothers Big Sisters
    • Boys and Girls Club — responsibilities may include setting up and leading events
    • Reach Out and Read — volunteer to be a reader at one of 30 participating libraries
    • Youth sports leagues — responsibilities may include working concessions, coaching, refereeing or helping with facility maintenance

Try volunteering at a local animal shelter where your responsibilities might include everything from cleaning up facilities to playing with animals. Arkansas has more than 100 animal shelters, so there’s no shortage of opportunities.

  • POTENTIAL RESUME BUILDERS: “Rehabilitated animals;” “maintained facilities;” “interacted with and nurtured animals”
  • GET IN TOUCH WITH: Your local animal shelter
  • ALSO LOOK INTO: Zoos, farms or petting zoos — responsibilities may include working special events, caring for animals and leading educational info sessions

In a time when environmental issues are gaining more and more attention, your community’s environmental agencies could use a hand. With jobs like planting trees, doing highway cleanups or even leading environmental education initiatives, most agencies are happy to have your help and even encourage you to round up friends to lead programs within your school.

  • POTENTIAL RESUME BUILDERS: “Recruited new members;” “educated peers and community members on global climate change;” “organized students in tree-planting project;” “led school recycling efforts”
  • GET IN TOUCH WITH: Audubon Arkansas, Nature Conservancy of Arkansas, Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Keep Arkansas Beautiful
  • ALSO LOOK INTO: Adopt-a-Highway programs — keep a stretch of highway litter-free

Join a Volunteer Club or Group!
Many high schools have clubs with a community service component. For instance, the National Honor Society and the National Beta Club require members to volunteer a certain number of hours over the school year, and students can work together. Other organizations like Junior Civitan International and the Mayor’s Youth Council also do group service projects.