Looking for an Internship? Consider Volunteering Instead

Too often when people think of volunteering it’s simply regarded as a nice thing that some people do. One might think, “I just don’t know how to get involved,” or perhaps, “I need to look for summer internship opportunities, not volunteering opportunities right now.” If you are still trying to find summer work experiences or internships, maybe it’s time to re-think what it actually means to volunteer and consider taking advantage of the numerous opportunities available at non-profit organizations.

Volunteering vs. Internships

Why do teachers, parents and businesses encourage and promote students’ finding internships? One word: experience. Internships help students gain a better understanding of what different occupations are really like. While internships are a great way to begin building a resume, volunteering can serve the same purpose. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, those who volunteer have 27 percent higher odds of finding employment compared with those who don’t. Still not convinced? Consider some of the following reasons for volunteering:

  • Volunteering is an opportunity to explore career options and gain training and professional development through first-hand experiences.
  • Volunteering is a great way to network. You have a chance to meet new people and be in a positive atmosphere with those that share similar interests. Maybe one of these people could be your future boss or connect you with a job opportunity.
  • Volunteering allows you to utilize your skills. Whatever you are good at – social media, computers, working with youth or event planning, nonprofit organizations need a wide variety of people with unique skills in order to run smoothly. 
Getting Started

As with landing a summer job or internship, finding a volunteer opportunity can seem overwhelming.  Serve Idaho  – a division of the Idaho Department of Labor – has many resources to help you get started, including a section on its website with resources specifically for youth. You can also  search for regional volunteer opportunities in specific areas of the state.

Traditional volunteering not your thing? DoSomething.org is a student-run website that gives ideas and support to start your own volunteering initiatives in your community. Find a cause you’re passionate about such as combatting cyberbullying or homelessness or improving the environment. Read some of the suggestions on different activities you can do to help. Future employers will be impressed with your initiative and the experience and skills you gain from leading the activity.

Bottom Line

Volunteering isn’t one-size-fits all, and that is what makes it so great. You don’t have to constrain yourself to the traditional ideas of volunteering such as being a hospital aide or cleaning kennels at the animal shelter. Volunteering allows you the freedom to choose an issue or organization you’re really interested in and passionate about, which makes working there more enjoyable.

— Jordyn Neerdaels, Training Support and Marketing Coordinator
Idaho Career Information System