Volunteering is a Viable Alternative to Interning

Everyone talks up internships like they are the best things in the world. No doubt, they are excellent ways to gain experience, network, and build a resume, but so is volunteering.

Volunteering is often overlooked as an excellent alternative to interning. Did you know that most employers like to hire someone with volunteering experience on their resume?

Volunteering gives you many of the same positive opportunities that internships do. As a volunteer, you get to choose a niche that interests you, gain experience, advance your career, create networks and friendships, develop skills, gain leadership, enhance your resume, contribute to the community, and make a difference. They sound quite similar don’t they?

Making a meaningful, positive impact is very rewarding. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that nearly 25% of people volunteer. Volunteering is a fantastic way to get out and explore new industries and fields. Choose a cause that is inspiring to you. Volunteering will not only benefit others, but you can use the experience to advance your career.

Discover Your Interests

What are you interested in? There are volunteer opportunities everywhere – working outdoors, caring for animals, mentoring kids, helping senior citizens, or saving the environment. You can find volunteer opportunities both locally or globally. In fact, volunteering is a great way to open up worldwide opportunities, add international experience to your resume, and tie in your passion for traveling.

Determine what your interests are and chase them:

  • Do you have a professional organization or non-profit that excites you?
  • Can you relate the volunteer position to your major?
  • Do you want to try new things?
  • See different places?
  • Get a taste of full-time work?
  • Do something you will excel at?
  • Meet other people?
  • Improve your community?
  • Or travel to places you enjoy?

These questions will help you figure out what you want to do and where you want to do it. There are plenty of options. Decide on a niche and then go look for opportunities.

Where To Find Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering is everywhere. People always want to pitch in and make a visible impact that creates smiles. It can really energize you. After you know what type of work you want to do, visit libraries, chambers of commerce, senior centers, professional organizations, sports teams, associations, parks, places of faith, online programs, or career centers to find out what opportunities exist that align with your interests.

Next contact the groups and see how you can help. Pursue several and make sure that you are doing things that will benefit you.

The Benefits of Volunteering

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but volunteering will benefit both you AND the people around you. It’s a two-way street.

Volunteering makes a significant impact on the world, but it also helps you develop as a professional. When you find a volunteer opportunity treat it like a job. Ask questions, do what’s expected of you, and enjoy it. Do the best work you are capable of. By the end you should learn skills that match your goals, built a network of professional contacts, and acquired a few references you can call on.

You will learn valuable skills like teamwork, communication, organization, time management, and problem solving while making a positive impact. Plus, you’ll feel good about how you are spending your time.

Financially, you can’t volunteer full-time forever. You have to balance your income-producing work life and your volunteer life. After you’ve spent time volunteering, don’t be afraid to ask for a permanent, paying position. They exist and if you’ve done a recognizably good job, you’re more likely to get hired.

Volunteer Resources

The Internet makes it easy to find volunteering opportunities. There are lots of local options, but here are few online resources that may help you narrow down your search:

Explore your options, find one that excites you, and then make a meaningful contribution to the world.

Most people claim that they can’t find the time to volunteer, but if you are using your volunteer experience as a career-building alternative to interning, you have all the time in the world. Find a volunteer opportunity that interests you and see where it takes you.


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