Archived: Get experience through volunteering!

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Multiethnic Group of Young Volunteers

Have you ever looked at a help-wanted advertisement and thought the familiar “how am I supposed to get experience in that area, when I haven’t worked in that area yet?” It’s a common thought for a lot of students nearing the end of their program, and a challenge that your SAMRU can help with!


While paid work is an ideal way of gaining experience in certain areas, volunteer work can also give your resume a much-needed boost, particularly if your dream job is in a related field.


Match up your desired skill set with volunteer opportunities

The first step is to really consider what your existing skill set is, and where you have gaps between where you are, and where you’d like to be. Maybe you need more experience working with diverse groups? Perhaps you need experience working in a client-centric focused environment? Maybe you need planning, strategizing, and evaluation experience? Perhaps you just need a wider breadth of people to offer references when you start going to job interviews?


Once you know where your gaps are, you can start looking at which volunteer opportunities can meet those gaps and give you valuable experience. Read or discuss volunteer position opportunities as carefully as you would with a paid job position:

  • What can you offer the organization?

  • What will you learn in this volunteer role?

  • Who will you be working alongside with?

  • Where do your fellow volunteers work or study?

  • When are your contributions most valuable?

  • How much of a time commitment is volunteering?

  • How flexible are the hours, locations, or type of volunteering?


Take advantage of opportunities to grow

While there are plenty of volunteer positions where you can do the same thing you’ve always done for a great organization with an admirable mission, consider stretching your skills too by joining committees that might be on a topic you’re interested in, but have little experience with. Take advantage of your fellow volunteers’ skill sets and knowledge bases, and do some informal learning while working side by side on a project. Offer to take on new projects with other volunteers that allow you to try new skills or develop new strategies.


Get feedback

Don’t forget to check in with your volunteer coordinator – ask questions to gauge if the new skills you’re learning are progressing as you’d like. Get feedback about areas you can improve, and other areas that your supervisor would love to see you explore. You never know, you might find a brand-new passion!


Share your strengths

When you’re updating your resume, don’t forget to include your volunteer experience, and be sure to chat with your volunteer coordinator to see if he or she will agree to be on your go-to reference list. (See our previous article about references ( if you want some tips on this conversation). If your volunteer contribution had a positive impact on the community, and you’re a current MRU student, don’t forget to also look into awards like those offered from SAMRU (


Looking for on-campus volunteer opportunities? Consider volunteering with SAMR! >>


-By Dawn Linnemoller, Editor & Content Coordinator, SAMRU