Student volunteerism for career and self-improvement

Understanding a key to transition into a prosperous career and a satisfied life


One of the biggest tasks for graduates is breaking into their preferred careers. Most university students have a dream career path they envision progressing through after graduation. However, getting accepted in a decent job that would kick-start that career is a challenging mission that requires mastery of non-academic skills in addition to the academic knowledge earned. Especially as a fresh grad, you have probably not worked at a similar full-time position before, which creates some sort of gap of understanding and experience. A good strategy, therefore, is to build up your resume and augment it through volunteering with relevant organization as you pursue your studies.

Unlike finding hourly paid work while studying, kick-starting a long term career requires going through lots of screening by the employer to ensure suitability and consonance with the organization. Hiring is one of the most important investments a company makes, so they are typically selective and long-term oriented. Employers will look for hints of soft skills in a candidate’s resume and will probe into her mastery level of those skills. Whether you obtained those skills through a paid or voluntary position is irrelevant to an employer as long as you did acquire these skills.

Canadian employers were found to significantly value communication skills, positive work attitude and teamwork skills (plus others) as top soft skill to scan for in candidates. They even mention those skills explicitly in job descriptions. Despite this, merely writing “Has excellent collaboration skills” in your application then sending it off will not fly by a potential employer. You need to demonstrate how you obtained excellence in these skills and supplement that claim with situational examples from previous experience in addition to references.

Volunteering with suitable organizations helps you bridge that student-career shift as a fresh graduate. By getting involved as a volunteer, you sharpen your soft skills by practice and develop experience working in a company setting. The result is that when you apply for a full time position after graduation, you have some of the soft skill set developed by more seasoned professionals within that same organization.

Additionally, the professional network you get to develop while volunteering is also an invaluable asset, where your supervisors can often act as references for your future employment applications, or even recruit you full time after completing your degree.

Not only will volunteering sculpt your resume to match what major employers are looking for, it’s also a great source of personal satisfaction. In his ranking of personal needs, famous American psychologist Abraham Maslow classified self-transcendence as the highest source of satisfaction. Self-transcendence is basically going out of your way (transcending self-interest) and helping others unlock their potential to achieve more.

At MUN, the Student Volunteer Bureau (SVB) is an office dedicated to matching students with organizations which require volunteers. The yellowish-bluish glass windowed office is located at the University Centre (UC) just past the food court. If you are interested in volunteering, make sure to stop by and learn about the various opportunities on and off campus. Trust me: your future self—with a better sense of self-satisfaction and a stronger resume too—will thank you!