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Resume-Building Tips for College Students

by Deborah Mitchell and Shannon Doyle

Resume-Building Tips for College Students

You know the dilemma: if you want to get a good job, you need experience; but to get experience you need a job.

One solution, you've been told, is to enhance your resume with descriptions of your volunteer activities projects you've participated in and the responsibilities you shouldered for each one. There's no doubt that the time you spend as a volunteer or volunteer leader can be invaluable to you, not only for the often unique experiences you gain, but because it can help you secure a better job in summers and after graduation, open doors to networking opportunities with community and business leaders, broaden your knowledge base, and give you a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment.

You may be thinking: "Sure, all of this sounds great, but how am I going to squeeze in yet another scheduled activity in between classes, labs, studying, my part-time job, and, oh yes, sleep?"

The answer is flexible volunteering. Unlike traditional volunteer opportunities, which require you to show up on specific days at specified times at a particular location, flexible volunteer opportunities are those that you do on your schedule, when you have the time, whether that time is fifteen minutes while you ride the bus to your part-time job, a spare thirty minutes you can spend on the Internet in between classes, or an unexpected free hour or two when a class is cancelled.

Michelle Paradis, for example, is making the most of her flexible volunteer time.  While pursuing a degree in elementary education, Michelle leverages the contacts she makes as a student teacher to volunteer in additional grades and subjects. Whenever she has free time, Michelle assists teachers, tutors students, and even substitutes for parents on field trips.  (Sometimes, those field trips would have been cancelled due to lack of chaperones, were it not for Michelle's kind offer of help.)

But Michelle is helping herself too, because she gets a chance to learn more about which grades she would prefer to teach in the future, while building a resume of experiences that will help her rise above other entry-level candidates when competing for the best teaching jobs.

How to Make Your Resume Shine with Flexible Volunteer Activities


  • Include your volunteer work under a heading such as "Work Experience" or "Business Experience" along with any paid work you have done. Just because you don't get paid doesn't make the work any less relevant or important.
  • Give yourself relevant titles for your volunteer work. Remember, you are performing important tasks and your position is more than the label "volunteer." If you help raise money, then you are a "Fundraiser." If you are responsible for maintaining a membership list and activities, then you are a "Membership Coordinator."
  • List the duties you perform. Make the descriptions accurate and professional. For example, "Responsible for exercising the special-needs dogs" is much more descriptive than "dog walker." Todd writes articles for a local environmental newsletter and lists his duties as "Part-time writer of environmental articles for a monthly newsletter. Responsible for conducting online research, conducting telephone and personal interviews, and fact checking."
  • Explain any leadership qualities or skills you have acquired while performing your volunteer work. Did you have to learn a new skill, such as CPR or wildlife handling? Do you train other people? Are you responsible for coordinating others' activities? Don't overstate what you did, but make sure to give yourself credit for the talents and skills you have gained.

For the average college student, flexible volunteering is a logical, convenient answer to how to gain meaningful work experience when there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. There are many conventional and online charity-related organizations offering a wide variety of traditional volunteer opportunities, but the concept of flexible volunteerism is a relatively new idea that addresses a need that has risen among today's ultra-busy population, especially college students, who want to gain experience, give something back to the community, but just can't seem to find the time.

Charity Guide has taken the idea of flexible volunteerism and given it energy and a web presence that is full of flexible volunteer ideas. CharityGuide.org offers busy college students a wide range of flexible volunteer activities in many categories -- from environmental protection to children's issues, animal welfare, health and safety, community development, and poverty. If you're looking for a way to make your resume stand out above the rest and feel good about it at the same time, a visit to CharityGuide.org might be the answer you are looking for.

You can also tap into the many charitable organizations around your college or university town. You can do this on your own time as well: from the comfort of your computer, access a charity's or business's website and make a phone call or send an e-mail to find out more about flexible volunteer opportunities.

If you want to build a better resume, there's no time like the present to explore the possibilities of flexible volunteerism. That is, unless you'll have more time a little later today. You decide. It's flexible.

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