Along the road to gaining admission to your preferred university or landing that first job, consider some volunteer work. I give this advice frequently to PR students who talk to me about job or graduate-school concerns.
I tell them to help a child or adult learn to read. Assist the Salvation Army in raising funds to feed the homeless or shelter abused women. Help the local Red Cross or cystic fibrosis office with a special event. Pick up a hammer for Habitat for Humanity. Be a Big Sister or Brother.
The law of supply and demand in the volunteer world is unrelenting: the demand for volunteers in every part of our communities always exceeds the available supply. This is especially true during tough economic times, like now.
In fact, volunteering offers many benefits to students:
- It makes you more attractive to colleges and prospective employers because you've engaged in the world. You've given. You've demonstrated commitment.
- It creates opportunities to gain mentors and collect references.
- It provides invaluable life experiences, which produce self-insights.
- It expands your network of friends and contacts, and thereby your job opportunities.
- It increases your personal satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
- It offers you the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life, as well as your own.
What could be better than that?
Recently I made a wonderful discovery while conducting research about leaders and legends in the PR field. All of the 34 leaders I researched were or are active volunteers, most for life. They contribute to community projects, enlist in social causes, mentor young professionals, lead civic organizations, and work diligently to advance professional associations.
The lesson is simple: Engage in the world around you. Contribute. Make a difference. It just might help you gain admission to that select university or land that job you so desire. For sure it will enrich you. As Leonard Nimoy, or Mr. Spock for Star Trek fans, has so aptly noted, “The miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have.”
Bruce Berger is Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising & Public Relations at the University of Alabama. Previously he was VP of PR at Whirlpool Corporation. His column focuses on PR students, young professionals, and education. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.