The Student Involvement and Employment Office offered the first Soup and Substance event of the spring semester last Tuesday featuring a guest speaker who offered advice to students regarding volunteer work and marketing those experiences when seeking employment.
Tiffany Hughes, the marketing and outreach coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Portage County, offered some information about the benefits of volunteer work, suggestions on how to get involved, and tips on how to incorporate that experience into resumes and interviews.
This information was shared over enormous pots of soup and baskets of rolls provided by the Dreyfus University Center food court that were free for the taking.
Hughes made it clear that students should aim to begin volunteering in high school if possible. It is not something that should be put off until the last semester of college.
“Putting off volunteer work makes employers cringe, so just start early and show your dedication,” Hughes said.
Hughes made a point to mention that volunteer work will benefit students the most if they relate it to their area of study and/or intended career field. For instance, students looking to go into the human resources field should seek volunteer opportunities that heavily involve interpersonal communication skills with a variety of people. This could include volunteer work at retirement homes, day cares, schools and many other options.
While volunteering is nearly essential for human services jobs, the experience is valued by employers in every career field.
“Employers are humans just like you. They want to see that their applicants care. Dedicating your time to a cause shows that you are reliable, unselfish and give back to others,” Hughes said.
Hughes also mentioned that while listing all volunteer experiences is impressive, having one or two standout long-term volunteer causes is ideal and will make a larger impact on employers.
To best incorporate volunteer experience into resumes, Hughes recommends using intriguing, detailed phrases and to include the skills obtained through those experiences.
If an employer does not directly ask about volunteer experience, it is still possible to mention it when asked the general questions such as, “What is something unique that you can bring to this company?”
In closing, Hughes said that confidence is key in any interviewing process and that volunteer experiences must be presented with confidence.
“Instead of asking yourself why you would be hired for this job, ask yourself why you wouldn’t be hired,” Hughes said.
Hughes suggested Big Brothers Big Sisters as a valuable volunteer experience and mentioned the upcoming campus event, Big for a Day, on March 8 which will allow students to see what it would be like to volunteer for the organization.
There will be two more Soup and Substance events throughout the course of the semester, both of which will also be focused on student life.
“I think these events are a great experience to discuss different topics and opportunities with other students. I came to this event because I am looking to gain more volunteer experience,” said Sijia Xiang, a junior majoring in family and consumer science.
“The goal of Soup and Substance is to educate students on a wide variety of topics. This semester it is more focused on student life, while last semester was focused on different interest topics such as women’s rights and composting,” said Maria Pfundheller student leadership and marketing coordinator at SIEO.
Pfundheller organizes all of the Soup and Substance events and says that all three of the topics set for this semester were widely suggested by students who attended the events last semester.