Supplement Your Resume With Volunteer Work


The fall months mark a fresh start – a new school year and the opportunity to take on new challenges outside of the classroom.

One of those challenges should be preparing for your career after graduation. From amping up your resume to practicing your interview skills, there is a lot to be done.

Students can start by gaining career-relevant experience through volunteer work. By taking this key step now, students can help their careers tremendously down the road.

Think long-term

In my experience, it’s very easy for students to focus on the here and now: “I’m a student, so I’m going to go to class and get my work done and go out on the weekends.”

In this era however, getting a piece of paper isn’t enough. What are you doing, on top of your studies, to supplement your resume? With steep competition for relatively few jobs, it is necessary that you differentiate yourself. Let’s start the conversation:

You: I’ve got decent grades, but my work experience is the same as all the other students: a service job, research work for a professor and maybe a camp counselor position. How am I going to do differentiate myself from the other candidates?

Me: Simple. Get some experience in the area you want to work. This will provide the real-world experience that employers and grad schools demand.

You: Okay, well I want to work in IT/Accounting/Global Development, but Google/E&Y/the United Nations won’t hire me without some solid experience first. It’s a catch-22!

Me: Yes, and no. Don’t go for the Hail Mary pass. Applying to work part-time at Google without any experience is not going to fly. So, gain the experience you need by volunteering. This is a great way to find meaningful and relevant work.

You: I do volunteer. I run bake sales and host parties as fundraisers for different charities and clubs, but the volunteer experiences I’ve had aren’t very well connected to my field.

Me: Then look elsewhere! There are lots of organizations on-campus and in your city (or online!) that are non-profits which provide relevant, real-world experience. There are also businesses who accept interns; approach a business you are interested in working for and offer your time and effort pro bono to gain experience. The key is to identify what industry you want to work in, and then volunteer with an organization that has ties to that industry.

A great example is Students Offering Support, which provides university students the opportunity to gain relevant experience by not just running parties and speaker events, but by running a social business, helping thousands of students pass exams and raising thousands of dollars for education projects in Latin America.

Through these projects, SOS volunteers gain the experience that employers are demanding. Our partners, E&Y and HSBC, also love to hire SOS volunteers because of their varied skill sets. To get involved with us, or to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, click here.

Do you actively volunteer? Share your experience in the comments section below!


About the author

Greg Overholt Greg Overholt (@goverholt) is the founder and executive director of the national student-led charitable social venture SOS: Students Offering Support (@SOSheadoffice). SOS is an organization where student volunteers teach their peers in exam-prep group review sessions, with the proceeds used to fund education projects in rural Latin America, built by volunteers on annual outreach trips. Since 2004, 25,000 students have been taught across 30 universities, raising more than $1,400,000 for development projects. Greg has spent the last five years since graduating helping 3000+ student leaders across Canada to "raise marks, raise money, and raise roofs" on their campuses.