There is a common problem that I am asked by high school students and college students to help with.
They feel stuck and at a disadvantage when it comes to applying for jobs – either while they are in school or after graduation.
Employers want to hire people with experience. In order to get experience, you need the job that won’t hire you without it. It is a messy cycle.
BUT there is a solution and I have spent years working with students to help them with it. Volunteering. By learning to organize service projects for your campus and your community, the students I work with develop valuable job skills that employers want.
In this post, I list the top 7 skills employers are looking for and how you can demonstrate them through your volunteer work. Even more important, I provide you with tips on what to mention on your resume, in your cover letter, and during your interview.
New here? I also have the following blog posts to help you plan meaninful service projects and help youth develop leadership skills.
If you want more tips and step-by-step guides to planning events and programs, check out my Insider’s Online Vault.
Job Skill #1 – Positive Attitude
You can demonstrate a positive attitude by discussing the volunteer work you have completed. Mention, specifically, how you overcame any challenges. Talk about the group dynamics and if you were able to encourage or motivate the other volunteers you served with. It is okay to mention if there were struggles while doing the project, but you want to emphasize how it helped you learn or develop new skills.
Job Skill #2 – Communication
Being a volunteer leader helps you develop awesome communication skills. You have to know how to get people interested in what you are doing so they join your project or support it through donations and in-kind sponsorships. You also communicate with clients (the people you serve) and with partners (the community agency). If you send emails, write a newsletter, start a letter campaign, or blog about your experience you are demonstrating communication skills.
Job Skill #3 – Teamwork
Successful volunteer projects require teamwork. You can demonstrate that you understand this by mentioning how you contributed to the service project and what you struggled with. How did you overcome any challenges by relying on someone else? Did you have to delegate any tasks to anyone on your team? Not all teams work together smoothly all the time so if you had any conflicts or struggles, talk about what you did, as a team, to work through them.
Job Skill #4 – Self-Management
Every person that does volunteer work can demonstrate this self-management skill. By listing a project that you organized or work with a team to organize, you show that you can set a goal and take the necessary steps to reach it. I haven’t talked much about references and who to list when applying for a job, but you want someone who can talk about how you take initiative and get things done.
Job Skill #5 – Thinking Skills
Whenever you had to solve a problem or work through the logistics of a project, you are using thinking skills. Discuss how you lead or were involved in brainstorming sessions or how you had to work through an issue that appeared at the last moment. You don’t need to exaggerate anything when you talk about thinking skills but make sure they know that there was a situation that could have been worse if not for you being able to problem-solve through it or make a decision quickly.
Job Skill #6 – Willingness to Learn
Learning is not just for the classroom. Your willingness to learn is such a valuable quality because your employer wants to know that you are teachable. Most of your first year on the job is going to be learning. Either through reading manuals, going through training, or taking responsibility for your own professional development, you are going to be gaining lots of new knowledge.
You probably didn’t start your service project or program knowing every single thing about it. You had to be willing to learn and be interested in your work to continue to do so. If you attended meetings, went to conferences, researched an article, or asked about best practices, you demonstrated your commitment to learning what you needed to in order to be successful.
Job Skill #7 – Resilience
Did you have a horrible first event? Did you plan a service project and no one showed up or there was miscommunication so you didn’t have food or supplies? These are very common situations that project leaders have faced. You are not alone. But on your resume or cover letter you want to talk about what you did take care of the situation. What did you learn from the experience and how did you make changes for the next time so you were successful.
So…how do you develop these skills to list on your resume?
You want to make sure that you have experiences to talk about specific things you have done to demonstrate them.
The best way to get these skills is to organize your own service project or volunteer program. I can help you do that through my online course: The Complete Guide for Student Leaders to plan Meaningful Service Projects. In just a couple of hours, you will know all the basics – from creating a vision to developing community partners and recruiting volunteers. I show you how to Create a Buzz, plan a budget, and walk through all the logistics. As someone who has spent year planning projects – from small groups to large community events – I am breaking down each step into a manageable process. AND, I then give you the ability to use your experience to really shine on your applications for colleges, scholarships, and jobs.
Bonus to Course – as a bonus in the Course, I go deeper into this topic of how to highlight your skills by providing many specific examples of resumes, interview questions, and cover letters.
Hi! I’m Kim.
I’m a wife, mom, and educator.
I’ve worked in higher education for over 18 years and love planning events that engage students in fun, hands on experiences. Different events I have planned are Cultural Fairs, Science Fairs, Large Scale Fundraisers, School Performances, Parent Involvement Opportunities, Concerts, Speakers, Leadership Conferences, and so much more! My strength is in the logistics and I plan for fun. I am now using my strengths to help others take the stress out of event planning to have quality programs for youth of all ages.