Volunteering has become a new avenue for social interaction among middle and high school students. More often, teenagers bring their friends along to volunteer, and as a result, causes are getting the help they need and teens are learning how to network in the process.
The notion of volunteering as a powerful networking opportunity is no surprise to most adults, but it might capture the attention of many students, especially when they hear how it could affect their future plans.
So how can teens make the most of this opportunity? Let’s take a look at five strategies that help them network through volunteering.
Turn Passions into Action
First things first: consider what you’re passionate about. Whether it’s protecting the environment, tutoring disadvantaged youth, or serving meals to the homeless, there is a cause out there to suit your passion. Then consider your skills. Are you an excellent graphic designer, who could create flyers for a nonprofit? Do you have a special gift to interact with kids?
Chances are, your passions and skills are closely related to your career ambitions. By using these criteria to direct your volunteer work, you will ultimately gain valuable experience to prepare you for a future career. Maybe you’ll meet someone who can connect you to an internship in the field. Maybe you’ll discover you need more robust skills training, and so you’ll determine your college major. The possibilities are endless, but the bottom line is this: volunteering is an effective tool to use, and it will cost you nothing but time.
Look Beyond your School
Volunteering through your high school’s community service projects is certainly beneficial. But, it can also make it difficult to widen your scope on the world. If you find a volunteer opportunity that engages you in a new cause or community, you will feed your mind and expand your worldview. You will build relationships that will connect you to more opportunities, which will ultimately help you make informed decisions later in life. Plus, as long as you are genuinely interested and stay committed, you will impress potential colleges or employers by showing them your ability to step outside your comfort zone – and learn from it.
Work within Local Networks
How can you maximize the networking potential of your volunteer experience? Look up the local chapters of national service organizations, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions’ Club and find out how you can be involved in their volunteer efforts. Commonly, local chapters are filled with neighborhood professionals, who could provide you with valuable mentorship and advice. They could also write excellent college recommendation letters for you, especially if their alma mater happens to be one of your choices. Furthermore, chapters of nationally esteemed organizations want to support local students’ college aspirations. So, not only would you learn from the chapter’s professionals, but you could end up earning scholarship money from the organization itself.
Talk to the People around You – a LOT
Get to know the people your service benefits, seeking to understand the nuances behind the cause you’re serving. Also, talk to your fellow volunteers, building connections to people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. These conversations will help you develop your own perspective, and you’ll be able to speak more knowledgeably about a host of issues. Your well developed perspective – as well as your polished interpersonal skills – will come in handy when you’re applying to jobs or colleges later.
Be Proactive and Build a Bridge
Even in high school, you might have a dream job in mind. Maybe it’s in a certain field, or maybe it’s with a certain company. Either way, you can build a bridge to your dream job by investigating your potential employer’s corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR has experienced a major evolution in recent years, as consumers have demanded that companies invest in important causes. Many companies have employee volunteer programs, some of which are designed to engage potential employees (that means you!) in community service. With this in mind, spend some time researching your dream employer’s interests, and – if they align with your own – find out a way to volunteer with them or simply to volunteer for a similar cause. Doing so will show initiative, and your connection will serve you well later.
It’s never too early to make volunteering a part of your routine. In fact, by starting young, you’re likely to experience significant personal growth, which will show a richness of character to potential employers or colleges. To get started, visit www.volunteermatch.com and start searching for the right opportunity.
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