Last week, my university sponsored its sixth annual Make a Difference Day. Hundreds of students fanned out across town completing a variety of service projects. It was a wonderful opportunity to do something good for the community.
Not only was this event good for the community, it was good for the volunteers involved. Showing your commitment to service can boost your personal brand.
Your values are a major component of who you are, and part of building a strong brand is staying true to what’s important to you. As you approach the internship/job search, it’s important to find alignment between your values and those of the organization you consider working for. If you and your employer don’t have agreement on some of your stronger values, you won’t enjoy that work environment. While you can hope for change in the organization, it’s not likely to happen on that deep of a level.
If you find an organization where your values matter, they will probably notice as well. Make sure your community service is well documented on your resume. When opportunities arise in interviews, consider discussing your volunteer activities. And keep in mind that some companies plan service opportunities for employees. If they see you’re already engaged in volunteer work, it could be one more element that indicates a good employment fit.
An Opportunity to Build Experience
Speaking of resumes, don’t discount volunteer experiences when developing yours. You can build some solid career-related experience during long-term volunteer roles. Going into education? Volunteer as a tutor at your university’s tutoring center. Instead of relegating this role to a community service section on your resume, give it more attention by highlighting it in your experience section. Considering a career in public relations? Look for event planning or program coordination opportunities with non-profits.
Volunteer roles in which you can gain relevant experience are typically open to students at any level and from any discipline. If you are looking into internships, experience through community service can help prepare you for opportunities. And if you’ve been on the hunt for a summer internship but have come up empty handed, engage in a service experience over the summer to make the most of the season.
A Reflection of Your Work Style
Empathetic, compassionate, caring. These are just a few of the characteristics that come to mind when I meet someone with a propensity for service. These also happen to be the qualities I most enjoy in my colleagues. When you give of your time in volunteer endeavors, it signals that you give consideration to the needs of others. I can tell you from experience that it’s much more pleasant to work with selfless co-workers than selfish ones.
When it comes to your personal brand, giving back to your community results in more than just good work and good feelings. It can give back to you in professional ways, too.
Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development. In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships. She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media. Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater. To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.