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Volunteering to pump up your resume

Photo Credit: Peter Yu, USAG Humphreys Public Affairs

Volunteering is one of the best ways to meet new people, see more of the globe, and boost your professional skills. Volunteering works particularly well when you are a student because you may have more available time and untested skills, but volunteering can make your resume stand out regardless of how far along you are in your career.

Despite  the benefits of doing volunteer work, choosing one particular program can be a challenge. These tips will prove helpful when searching for volunteer work:

Start with your goals and expectations
Ask yourself:
  • How much time do I have to volunteer?
  • Do I want to work alone or as a part of a group?
  • What work am I prepared to do?
  • Can I afford to pay the fee (if there is one) or do I need a grant?
  • What relevant skills will I gain/learn from the program?

Selecting the right organization 

If you decide to participate in a structured volunteer program, do your homework. Pay attention to each program’s reputation. Think, "What do previous participants have to say about their experience?", "How safe is the program?" and "What kind of credentials does the program provide?"

One of the most helpful sites to choose a structured volunteer program is Volunteer Forever, an incredibly helpful resource praised by a variety of reputable sources. 

Joining a structured program is not the only way to volunteer. You could volunteer independently. Independent volunteering allows you more flexibility as to where you go, what you do, and how long to stay. On the other hand, you are fully responsible for arranging accommodations, finding opportunities, etc. While independent volunteerism can be highly rewarding; it may not be ideal for your first volunteering experience. 

Think of the learning curve
Ideally, if you are a student or untrained volunteer, choose a program with a minimal learning curve. After all, just knowing how to speak English doesn't qualify you to TEACH foreign-born people to speak it. You'll also need teaching skills and an understanding of the students' language(s) so that you can translate difficult concepts.

Find out what previous volunteers are doing now
Many people participate in volunteer programs to gain valuable professional experience that they can include on their resume. If this is your case for you, find previous applicants to see if the program helped them in their career. Ask them: "Did you build a successful career because of the volunteer experience?" and "What skills did you acquire during the volunteer experience?"

Don't neglect language barriers
If you are teaching English in another country, know the host country's language. Become immersed in the culture. Explore new places. Become part of the community and don't assume that just because English is the universal language for business that everyone who you meet speaks it fluently.

Come up with questions
Once you've considered options, shortlist the best programs. Study programs' web sites and talk with their representatives. To make the most of these conversations, prepare a list of questions to ask in advance. Do not expect a stranger to anticipate your every need.

Make your application appealing
Some volunteer programs may require a recommendation letter. Prepare past bosses and influential people to give you a strong recommendation by supplying them with your resume, job description, and talking points about your qualifications. If you must write an essay, wow recipients with strong, interesting, well-researched writing and impeccable grammar and punctuation. 

Be up for it!
No matter which structured or independent volunteer program you choose, be prepared for everything that comes your way. Evaluate the upsides and downsides and then decide if volunteering is truly worth it for you. And if it is, go for it!

Guest Post by Kevin Nelson

Kevin is a professional educator and a private tutor with more than eight years of experience. He is also a content writer for various blogs about higher education, entertainment, social media, and blogging.

Currently, Kevin works as a part-time writer for EliteEssayWriters. During his off time, Kevin enjoys traveling and cooking. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter and Linkedin. 


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