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Volunteering: An Overlooked Alternative to College Internships

An overlooked alternative to college internships

With coursework, jobs, school activities and social commitments, many students are finding it increasingly difficult to complete multiple internships during college. The good news is that many volunteer opportunities provide a great alternative way to acquire important skills, build your portfolio and strategically position yourself for professional growth.

Here are just some reasons why volunteering is a solid alternative to internships:

  • Volunteering gives you an opportunity to contribute your unique skills to an actual organization while enhancing your portfolio. As a volunteer, your role may be diverse and can include anything from providing creative assistance to projects and designing marketing materials to organizing events and bookkeeping. Often times, you can tailor your volunteer experience to fit your specific background and skillset. Organizations are usually very accommodating and willing to let volunteers take on responsibilities that fit their individual interests.
  • You will be exposed to new workplace environments and inevitably learn new skills along the way. Observing the internal workings of a new environment and seeing firsthand the way an organization operates can be extremely helpful in learning what types of work and careers interest you most.
  • Volunteer commitments are often very flexible in nature. You will likely be able to determine your own days and hours that best fit your school and work schedule.
  • Volunteering at an organization you would like to work at can improve your chances of getting hired there. Simply put, it’s much more likely a loyal volunteer at an organization will be considered for a job opening versus a random applicant with no prior connection to the organization.
  • You will significantly expand your network and get to know other people in your community. Relationship building is key to professional development and volunteering is one of the easiest ways to make new contacts who may become future references as you apply to jobs.

There’s no doubt that internships tend to be highly regarded ways to get ahead in the job hunt. However, if you’re looking for a way to learn and use your skills in a real-world setting, volunteering can be very rewarding and just as impactful to your professional development.

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One Response

  1. Great article and points (awesome that it’s by a fellow Buffalonian). On a resume, volunteer experience can often have an equal weight as a paid job experience. Employers are looking for skill-sets. As a career coach, I am always recommending students look into volunteering to gain specific skill-sets they will need over the course of their career.

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