Community service is an essential part of the learning experience. It offers the satisfaction of helping improve the world in which you live, helps you gain new perspective, and teaches you about people and places you might never have known about otherwise.
Volunteering can also offer some practical advantages in addition to the social and emotional benefits. Service work looks great a college application and is a great resume builder, especially when you have little paid work to list.
Community service is particularly good at developing and demonstrating your soft skills, the behaviors, attitudes and aptitudes that can help you excel in any job.
Volunteering helps build soft skills
We’ve identified seven of the soft skills that employers find most valuable and taken a look at how you can use volunteer work to improve your performance and show off your skills on your resume.
- Leadership: Good leaders don’t just issue orders; they organize, strategize, delegate and understand people’s strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps the best way to practice leadership and signal it on your resume is to identify a need in your community and create your own service project to address it. Coaching youth sports is another great way to hone and show off your ability to lead.
- Communication: Just about every job requires you to communicate clearly and professionally with clients, coworkers and supervisors. To show you have these skills, choose a volunteer gig that involves writing, manning the phones or interacting directly with clients. Make fundraising phone calls or draft blog posts for a charity, perhaps or give tours at a local historical museum.
- Problem-solving: Creative, analytical thinking are vital skills to show off when job hunting. Nurture your problem-solving abilities by working with organizations that help people navigate challenges, whether it is helping low-income residents figure out what benefits are available to them or helping immigrants get oriented to their new homes. Also consider reaching out to smaller community groups and asking what their ongoing challenges are, then see if you have ideas for a solution.
- Teamwork: Hiring managers want to know that applicants are willing to work as part of a group and won’t put their own needs ahead of those of the team. So join a team. Seek out volunteer jobs that have you working in large, coordinated groups, ideally with people of different ages and backgrounds. Help set up the course for a charity walk or join the organizing committee for a fundraising event, for example.
- Empathy: The quality of empathy is an essential ingredient to good workplace communication and forging strong relationships. Engage your empathetic side by seeking volunteer work that lets you nurture human connections. Look into working with the elderly, serving clients at a food pantry, or mentoring underprivileged children.
- Passion: The best employees are those with fire for what they do. Show off your passion by finding volunteer work that matches your academic or extracurricular interests. If you plan to study medicine in college, look for opportunities at the local hospital or even train to be an EMT; if you have a passion for the arts, volunteer to assist with a youth arts nonprofit.
- Work ethic: Employers want to see applicants are ready to put in the energy and hard work required to get the job done. Demonstrate this quality by committing to a regular volunteer position over an extended period of time. And look into the less glamorous gigs: Clearing trails for a wildlife refuge or hauling lumber at a construction site for low-income housing shows you’re willing to get your hands dirty.
The main goal of any community service should be to use your time and energy to help improve the world you live in. Choose your volunteer work carefully, however, and you can also help shape yourself into a better - and more hirable - employee.