College is hard – It’s supposed to be that way. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would have a college degree. Once you’re in college, working your way through your required courses, you’re then faced with another question: What do I do to stand out?
As thousands of online articles and websites like to point out, your time in college isn’t just about your GPA. It’s just as much about what you do outside of your courses that will make you attractive to employers and give you the skills you need to be successful in the real world.
There are few things more helpful to your post-college success than volunteer work.
This might seem counter-intuitive. After all, you have debts to worry about, jobs to apply for, internships to complete, and of course, homework. You are already paying for school, and now you’re supposed to work for free?
We get it. Volunteering is not always an easy sell. The altruistic reasons for volunteer work are well-known to most of us and easily understood, but there are also many practical and professional benefits to volunteering.
College graduates with volunteer experience are actually 27 percent more likely to find employment, according to a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The same study showed that employers are also 82% more likely to hire a job candidate with volunteering experience, and 85% more likely to ignore deficiencies in a resume if the candidate can demonstrate volunteer experience.
Clearly, students entering the workforce with a bit of volunteering on their resume have a serious advantage. They will stand out among other job-seekers with similar or better qualifications.
It’s difficult to imagine a time when recent college graduates and high school graduates faced a more uncertain job market than they do right now. In a time of lockdowns and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, even finding a part-time job or an internship can prove difficult or impossible.
But you can always do volunteer work; it’s more desirable now than ever.
The younger generations – Millennials and Generation Z especially – want to feel that their work makes a difference, and that the companies they work for are contributing to a purpose that has positive change.
More businesses and corporations see the benefits of charity work and volunteering as an integral part of professional success, said Marc Kielburger, the co-founder of WE Charity, one of the largest charitable organizations in Canada.
“In the WEconomy, more and more corporate leaders understand that purpose and profit reinforce each other,” Marc Kielburger said. “Progressive leaders are baking purpose into the DNA of companies as core functions instead of as add-ons.”
WE Charity has used social media and other modern platforms to reach and engage young people, many of them college students, and convince them to join in their many initiatives around the world.
Three out of four college students entering school already want to make a difference in their communities, but the realities of modern life often get in the way.
Fast Company concluded that increases in college tuition and student loan debts have already significantly decreased volunteer work among college students.
The biggest problems for university students are a lack of time and an abundance of stress. More students are working paid jobs to address their debts and living expenses.
The barriers are real, but there are also reasons to feel encouraged.
Both companies and universities see the benefits of volunteer work and are finding new ways to remove roadblocks for students to volunteer, Marc Kielburger said.
“Young people are looking for meaning and happiness to accompany their first paycheque,” Marc Kielburger said. “Inspire Your Career provides career advice designed to help you find more than just material success. Through its empowering and practical lessons, readers will find inspiration as they embark on their careers.”