Getting involved and participating in things that truly interest you not only helps to strengthen a resume, it also looks great to employers, and is regarded as excellent learning experience. Volunteering enables you to get your foot in that revolving door, not to mention helps in making invaluable contacts for the future.
Frank Smith, the national coordinator of NEADS (National Educational Association of Disabled Students) says that in addition to gaining experience for the future, engaging in extra-curricular activities and volunteer work is also linked to success and happiness. “I think the two go hand in hand. If students get involved in a society that caters to and allows them to pursue their interests, they’re going to be happier, feel more fulfilled, and ultimately it will help them deal with other everyday stresses,” said Smith.
Any kind of extra-curricular involvement while in school is the key to building an effective resume and getting a job upon graduation. Employers will often look at volunteering to be as valuable as real work experience. “If a person enjoys giving back to the community, and wants to work with or volunteer for community organizations whether they be disability groups, student groups or wanting to get involved in some sort of cause they believe in,” Smith said, “it shows a potential employer that they are dealing with a well rounded individual, who is willing to show initiative and broaden their experiences.”
A student in her fourth year at the University of Moncton, Natalie Fougere is studying psychology, communications and French. She is legally blind, but has spent much of her time volunteering at various places since she started high school, and sees it as a great way to gain skills and make connections.
“For a while I volunteered at a daycare and helped read children stories, which gave me the chance to be with kids, even though I knew that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “The nice thing is that volunteering helps to grow confidence and skill sense for disabled people: we can do all kinds of different things in different fields.”
For two summers in a row, Fougere helped out at a volunteer center in Moncton, and assisted with different local organizations. “I really enjoyed volunteering with the blind sports association in Moncton,” Fougere said. “I did things like phoning people to let them know when meetings were going on, and other volunteer related things. I am also a member of the Canadian council for the blind.”
Fougere agrees with the correlation between volunteering and success and happiness, “because it helps to associate good values and well being. It also gives you the chance to explore options and figure out what you want to do,” she said.
Like Fougere, Mahadeo Sukhai is legally blind, but that small factor has never slowed him down. He obtained a PhD in medical bio-physics from the University of Toronto, was the past president of NEADS, and has volunteered for over ten years at various organizations. Sukhai gained project management skills from hands on volunteer work and community oriented activities with the International Associations of Lions Clubs.
“I got a lot out of my time with the Lions, and found it personally fulfilling,” he said. “I learned to chair meetings, take minutes, and do presentations – which definitely helped me for my future. I also gained some of my very closest friends.”
Sukhai firmly agrees that a variety of skills are important, and that volunteering is a great way to gain experience, not to mention a key way to distinguish yourself from others.
During graduate school, Sukhai found himself wanting to give back to his university community. “I wanted to be involved,” he said. “I did many things culminating in the year I served as the president of the graduate students union at the University of Toronto. I was the chief executive of organization that represented all 12,000-plus grad students at the university,” he said.
“Volunteering allows you to learn things that come in so remarkably handy,” said Sukhai. “No matter where you volunteer, you’ll obtain skills that will remain useful over the years from a personal, professional and character growth stand point.”
So go ahead, dive in and help out an organization or club that interests and means something to you. It might not pay monetarily, but it will definitely be worth the experience. jp