College Students Boost Job Prospects by Volunteering, Survey Reveals

Careers
Posted By Terri Williams on August 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm
College Students Boost Job Prospects by Volunteering, Survey Reveals

Why aren’t college students volunteering? Who says they don’t? How about the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says volunteering as a whole has reached a 10-year low. According to the bureau, 35- to 44-year-olds and 45- to-54-year olds were the two age groups most likely to volunteer. But people in the 20- to 24-year-old range—the one that includes college students and recent grads—had the lowest volunteer rates.

Cut them a little slack: College students or recent graduates face a ton of workplace pressure getting or keeping a great job. Volunteering may be low on their list of priorities. But maybe it should move up: Recent research reveals that a history of volunteerism provides job candidates with a competitive edge.

The 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey provides a wealth of insight on volunteering. Below are selected excerpts from the survey:

Among respondents who directly or indirectly influence hiring decisions:

30% Of the resumes they receive include volunteer experience
82% Would be more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience on their resume
85% Are willing to overlook other resume flaws when a candidate includes volunteer work on a resume
92% Say volunteering improves an employee’s broader professional skill set
92% Consider volunteering an effective way to improve leadership skills
80% Believe active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.

 
Doug Marshall, managing director of corporate citizenship at Deloitte LLP explained the significance of the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey results.

Underestimating the volunteer experiences

Since hiring influencers strongly believe in the value of volunteering, why aren’t more job candidates including these activities on their resume? According to Marshall, candidates could have a variety of reasons for omitting this information:

  • They thought employers wouldn’t care.
  • They hadn’t volunteered recently.
  • They thought it might distract from their professional skills.
  • They didn’t think it would fit on their resume.

Regardless of the reason, Marshall says volunteers may be underestimating how much businesses value these types of experiences.

The importance of volunteering

While many students may view volunteering as a way to help others, they are also receiving something very valuable in return. “Volunteer experiences can help provide opportunities for job candidates to serve in a variety of roles that they might not have access to otherwise – roles that often help with building key leadership capabilities,” Marshall says.

That opportunity to develop professionally can give candidates a competitive advantage.  “At Deloitte, we hire people who are client-ready and can walk into a room and instantly gain credibility with our clients,” Marshall says. “We need people who have leadership abilities, and we look for candidates who have experience in leadership roles for professional or volunteer organizations.”

How does volunteering help to build leadership skills?

By engaging in new experiences and serving in different roles, Marshall explains that volunteers may be pushed out of their comfort zone and challenged to develop their leadership abilities.

The Deloitte Survey lists three primary categories of leadership skills that can be developed through volunteering:

Tactical Leadership ·         Juggling priorities
(common managerial skills) ·         Trusting other with responsibilities
·         Staying positive in the face of challenges
·         Setting goals and direction
·         Confidence and the ability to manage fear
·         Responsible to people and community
Treatment Leadership ·         Good communicator
 (interaction skills) ·         Being decisive, ability to make decisions
·         Accountability and commitment to people, decisions, and goals
·         Ability to motivate and inspire others
·         Acting with good intent, strong character
Technical Leadership ·         Being knowledgeable in a specific topic area
(skills that make a leader good at what they do) ·         Willingness to get deeply involved
·         Intuition and perception (knowing when to trust your gut)
·         Being creative, having a clever approach

 
The Deloitte Survey identifies five types of volunteerism. However, a slight majority of respondents chose skills-based volunteering as the best way to gain communication skills, build character, and demonstrate accountability and commitment.

Direct person-to-person volunteering Volunteer directly interacts with the person they’re supporting: visiting elders at a nursing home, serving meals to the homeless, being an adult counselor and buddy to a youth
Non-skills based community volunteering Volunteer indirectly interacts with multiple people: cleaning public parks, building local shelter space for the homeless
Skills-based community volunteering Volunteer uses their professional skills or unique talents to strengthen the community: a lawyer taking a pro bono case
Public advocacy based volunteering Volunteer lends labor, professional skills and other talents toward a public interest issue: encouraging people to stand up against social and civil injustice
Nonprofit/charity board member volunteering Volunteer serves as a staff on a board of directors for organizations that support a range of causes

 

Creating a culture of volunteering

Just as employers want candidates who have a history of volunteerism, many job seekers are also looking for companies that practice volunteerism and benevolence. “Creating a culture of volunteerism is a win-win-win – for companies, their employees, and our communities,” Marshall says.

Deloitte’s Impact Day – the company’s annual day of service – is an example of the organization’s commitment to foster a culture of volunteering. “Impact Day delivers over 950 projects for nonprofit organizations in more than 80 cities throughout the country – all of which are organized and led by our people.”

In addition to building leadership skills and demonstrating corporate responsibility, Marshall notes that volunteer experiences also result in increased employee engagement levels.

Advice for college students

For another perspective, GoodCall turned to someone in a college campus setting. Sharyn Lowenstein is the director of the Center for Community Based Learning at Lasell College, where she manages many volunteer efforts.

Lowenstein agrees that students can develop their skills through volunteering. However, she cautions that they should never volunteer just to gain skills or to be a more attractive job candidate. “Students should determine what they’re passionate about – perhaps their major can provide a clue – and then look for related opportunities in these areas.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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