Experience is one of the best ways to stand out to hiring managers. But, when you are studying full-time in school, your experience can be limited. Around 60% of youth aged 15-19 have worked in either retail, hospitality, or the fast-food industry.
In a highly competitive job market, how do you stand when so many other students share the same experience as you?
One way you can fill in your experience gaps is volunteering.
Benefits of Volunteering
When you hear the word “volunteering”, you may associate it with helping your local food bank or other non-profit organizations. But there’s a lot you can learn and gain beyond packaging food or helping to serve meals.
Here are some of the benefits of volunteering:
Learn and Develop Soft Skills
Volunteering gives you an opportunity to learn essential soft skills. Soft skills are a type of skill that you can apply to almost any job or career.
Often, you go to school to learn hard skills (or technical skills) where you use a tool or a machine to help you do your job. Skills such as graphic design, carpentry, engineering, and accounting are all examples of hard skills.
Soft skills are your personality, attitude, work ethic, how you interact with others, and how you approach different situations. You don’t necessarily need to take courses or go to school to learn or develop soft skills. You work on your soft skills every day!
Examples of Soft Skills
- Communication: Presentation, effective listening, storytelling, writing, collaboration.
- Problem solving: Observation, imagination, questioning, creativity.
- Time management: Organization, stress management, planning and scheduling.
- Leadership: Decision making, work ethic, relationship building.
Volunteering allows you to gain important soft skills that you can add to your resume. For example, if you spent time working on your collaboration and relationship-building skills while volunteering, you can add those experiences to your resume. These skills can be applied to almost every industry and every field of work.
In today’s job market, hiring managers value soft skills. Having effective soft skills shows that you are reliable, adaptable, flexible and are ready to take on different roles and tasks within the company.
In school, most of your interactions are with teachers or other students. But anybody can choose to volunteer—parents, full-time and part-time workers, elderly and more.
Having the chance to meet people from all walks of life gives you a chance to learn from their different life experiences. Networking an building relationships with other volunteers can also open doors to further opportunities.
In a highly competitive job market, networking can help you find work when more traditional methods aren’t working for you. Hearing about an opportunity from a friend before it’s publicly posted can give you an advantage. Knowing someone who works at a company that’s hiring can make your application more visible. Having someone you’ve volunteered with vouch for you can help ease hiring manager’s hesitations.
Volunteering exposes you to new experiences and you get to meet new, like-minded people as well. These new friends may become an important connection for you down the road when you begin your career journey.
Making a Difference
As a student, you may not have the money to donate to certain causes but, you can donate your time. Volunteering at a local charity will give you the ability to make a positive change in your community.
Being able to see the direct, positive impact that your actions can have may help guide you in deciding what type of career you want to pursue.
To explore volunteer opportunities for youth in Ontario, visit Spark Ontario.It’s difficult to stand out in today’s competitive job market. But by developing soft skills, networking, and helping others, volunteer experience can give you the edge you need to start your career.