Opinion: Volunteering now is vital for students in the long-run

Long-term volunteer commitments can provide students with employment opportunities and professional development

Volunteering and maintaining an active role in the community is an important way for students to form relationships with local organizations, build their resumes and gain valuable leadership experience. However, many students do not take advantage of long-term or innovative volunteer opportunities outside of group organizations, such as clubs or Greek life

While this may be an excellent way for students to get involved, making a long-term volunteering commitment to an organization of their interest provides individuals with even greater benefits.

In my own experience, heavy volunteering has been the driving factor behind my biggest internships and helped me earn scholarships to attend ASU. Many of the jobs I've had have stemmed directly from networking experience from my first volunteer position. 

"When you're trying to get your first job, anything helps. These volunteering opportunities are what you should put in lieu of work experience," said Robert Christianson, freshman aerospace engineering major and member of the EPICS Gold program in affiliation with the NASA Psyche Mission. "Networking is conceptually simple, but difficult to go out and do. Volunteering gives you an authentic means to meet people and impress them with what you're made of." 

Christianson started working as a volunteer for the EPICS program, which ultimately gave him the opportunity to work on the Psyche mission. 

By not volunteering, students could be missing out on valuable networking opportunities with project directors and other volunteers. Volunteering provides students with more casual way to network with community leaders and program supervisors, who could prove to be extremely valuable when students are looking for letters of recommendation, references and ways to meet other employers in a specific career field. 

Sticking to a specific volunteering position for a long period of time can aid students to build partnerships within organizations and help them prepare for future career and internship opportunities. Many students may even find themselves interning or working for the same organization that they volunteered for. 

"Volunteering in a long term position is awesome because you develop a sense of belonging to the program and you get to see how your work has impacted students over time," said Melanie Miller, a sophomore marketing major and member of W.P. Carey's Academy Peer Programmers for Leadership Engagement, better known as APPLE. "While volunteering at multiple organizations might give you exposure to many different projects, you do not develop the same connection you would with a long term position."

Volunteering helps students with professional development and marketability. Employers are looking to give internships and jobs to individuals with a diverse set of skills, which students can gain from engaging in volunteer opportunities. 

Demonstrating commitment to a volunteer position not only proves the students' reliability and dedication, it also sets them apart from those who do not have any experience in the non-profit sector. 

There are various volunteer opportunities around ASU, in Tempe and the wider Phoenix area, and even across Arizona that students can become involved in. Many of these organizations are looking for students to make a long-term commitment, since they would likely be more knowledgeable about the institution runs from personal experience. 

"Volunteering as an APPLE has impacted my personal development because it has connected me to professionals in the Phoenix area, taught me the proper etiquette when working with these professionals, and showed me how to coordinate large events for a diverse group of people," Miller said. 

Students do not need to limit themselves to existing opportunities. There are many diverse groups that need the help of energetic, devoted volunteers to start a local grassroots movement or promote awareness among ASU students. 

Utilizing ASU resources, such as Changemaker Central, is a great way for students to get help with creating a unique volunteer project. 

Bringing unique volunteer opportunities to campus is another great way to become involved and connect with the ASU community. Uniting students to work on behalf of one cause can create a sense of solidarity among groups and help make Arizona a more efficient and inclusive state. 

Looking for unique ways to make an impact is an important aspect of becoming an innovative leader. If there is a global, nationwide or even local issue that is not getting enough attention from ASU, students can address this problem by bringing grassroots volunteering efforts to campus. 

This can be as simple as promoting awareness for a certain issue, organizing a drive or getting people together to help brainstorm groundbreaking solutions. 

Volunteering is a great way for someone to get an “in” to their prospective career fields. For example, someone who has volunteered at a hospital or care facility for a long period of time will meet more people in the medical field than someone who does not volunteer at those places, giving those who do volunteer a competitive edge over other potential employees. 

Volunteering is not simply a requirement for Greek life or clubs — it is an excellent way for students to prepare for their career, gain vital interpersonal skills and refine their work ethic. 

"Since this is my freshman year of college, my prospects for internships were remarkably low," Christianson said. "I had read that most engineering freshmen had to submit at least 250 applications to even have a chance of getting a few interviews, let alone a job. I submitted 31 applications; I got two interviews. Volunteering activities helped me because not many applicants typically have that volume of project and leadership experience."

Reach the columnist at amsnyde6@asu.edu or follow @AnnieSnyder718 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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