The Reasons Why Students Should Volunteer/Intern This Summer

    August 18, 2003

As summer kicks into full gear, most students are looking for work – for good reason.

The bad news:
Jobs for teens and college students are very scarce this summer. You could look for a job all summer and maybe not find one. Without knowing a hiring manager or connecting repeatedly with one, getting hired is very difficult. $6/hour is still the average hourly rate for service economy and restaurant jobs common to teens.

The good news:
The more value you provide to an organization, the better your chances of being hired. Jobs do exist, but many are looking for them, and in the same places – supply currently outweighs demand in the young adult job market. Alternatives exist to a paid position which may benefit you more in the long-run.

Volunteering is an option many should consider, some call it interning.

If you absolutely must make some dough this summer, then don’t volunteer, at least not full-time. But if you can forego quite a few luxuries and maybe some necessities (or have a decent savings), volunteering this summer has many benefits.

You gain resume-able experience

It’s a little known secret that volunteer opportunities often require more skills than the service and restaurant jobs available. Depending on the organization and how well you establish trust with your boss, you may be given authority for a one month summer project that impacts the organization you’re volunteering with.

Your contributions are really valued

Because an organization knows you’re not getting paid they may be more apt to give you a little bit more responsibility. And more honest work, rather than just busy work. In addition, because you’re not getting paid, you can leverage this into focusing on just 2-3 projects in which you can really make an impact. Oftentimes, volunteers are given work that others have not had the time to do and once the task is completed, it takes a big burden off of everyone’s shoulders.

You build up your resume in a serious way

Having Salvation Army or City Hospital or City Hall on your resume looks different than Burger King, Old Navy, or the local pool – not better necessarily, but different. Most likely you’ll be working with adults rather than solely with your peers. These will be people who can give you a good recommendation. They will also respect someone willing to volunteer their time, even if you do it for just ten hours a week while you hold down another part-time job.

You’ll get way more out of it than the pay you’re losing

Volunteering has a way of really opening us up to the needs of the world. By not being paid for our labor, we have to find intrinsic value in the work we’re doing. If you ask adults, many will say volunteering exposed them to a career passion and showed them the immense ability of people to help others.

You may find a passion or budding interest

Instead of banging your head against the wall for a few weeks or months this summer looking for work or making minimum wage, take a risk and do something you really want to do. Volunteer at an animal hospital, assist a lawyer in preparing documents for cases, aid the local Red Cross, or support your local church or community organization in the backlog of work they need done. Exposure to new people and places will naturally open you up to other possibilities for your life.

How to find volunteer opportunities

How you find these volunteer opportunities is much easier once you know why. Go down to your local library, church, hospital, community center, or city hall and express your interest to someone in authority there. Call your Mayor’s office or the Director of Human Resources for a large local non-profit. Think of a need you see around you and fill it. Try to match up your current skills and long-term career interests with something that could occupy your time and give you great exposure to a possible new industry.

Volunteering is not for everyone. But this summer, with the economy the way it is, it could be the best way to make use of your skills, benefit the lives of others, have fun, and maybe find a career passion along the way.

Dave Lloyd is a veteran of helping companies like Palm,
Handspring, Apple, and Hughes Electronics hire great
employees. He is the author of “Graduation Secrets: How to
Guarantee Academic, Career, and Relational Success”.
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