On top of doing your co-op, it’s always nice to have extra experience. What looks nearly as good as paid experience is unpaid volunteer experience. Why? Well there are a number of reasons and we’re going to dive right into them.
Work Ethic – Someone who is willing to take time out of their busy day to do free work has one heck of a work ethic. An employer is going to ask themselves, “Well if they are willing to do that without a paycheck, I wonder what kind of work they are willing to put out WITH a paycheck.” And that answer is usually, “A lot.” So you’re looking pretty good in the employer’s eyes.
Passion – Going off of work ethic, working for no money means that whatever you are volunteering for, you have some passion for. This could be a charity or good cause, just something in your field you do for free because you are driven, or something related to your hobbies. All of these things show that you care about something outside of work, and caring is the difference between a good worker and an average worker.
Easy Entry – The best part about volunteer work is that it is NOT competitive. Most of the time, you will have no problem finding volunteer work -- there is always room for good volunteers because not everyone is willing to make that commitment. It’s free, and easy to find, experience.
Extra Experience – The most basic reason, it’s just more experience. Even if it’s not directly related to your field you are getting experience working in teams, organizing, and overall life experience. Often there is a chance to take a leadership role. It’s something to add onto your resume besides an actual job (and that looks nice especially if you've only had a part-time job).
Character – Someone who is willing to work for free, especially if it's philanthropy work, is generally a good person. That doesn't mean if you don’t volunteer, you’re a bad person. It just means that if you volunteer you must have SOME level of integrity and an employer will assume you’re a responsible and mature individual.
Self-Actualization – Lastly this is 100% internal for you with a positive external outcome. People usually overlook this aspect, but volunteering makes you FEEL good. When you feel good, you tend to put out more work, are a happier and friendlier person, become more outgoing and gain the confidence you need in life.
|Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs|
Volunteering doesn't necessarily have to be with an organization; sometimes the company you work for has volunteer opportunities. This could be community services your company does OR it can just be an event that your company is hosting and needs people to help out off the clock. It’s good to just say yes to these opportunities if you can manage it. Check with your supervisors if there is ever an opportunity to volunteer within your organization.
You may be extremely busy during school, but if you find the right opportunity, you can fit it right into your schedule. A great time to volunteer is during the summer when you have more free time. Help your community and build your resume at the same time!