The summer going into college, I started to feel some pressure to start applying to jobs and internships. I really just wanted to relax and hold onto summer a little longer before starting college. However, reality kept popping up in conversations. Seeing my peers already creating resumes and cover letters, and getting part-time jobs made me feel like I needed to catch up. I had already felt behind because I didn’t have much job experience like some of my peers. This sent me into a thought spiral of ‘how can I get an internship when I don’t have experience in the workplace?’

The most important lesson I have learned is that relevant experiences can come in many different forms.

That summer, I threw together a very rough-looking resume. I applied to internships and a few on-campus jobs but was apprehensive because my job experience was practically nonexistent. The only things that helped make my resume look more filled out were my volunteer and leadership experiences from high school. I just held on to the hope that it would be enough, and little did I know at the time that such involvement would help me get three offers.

Offer 1:

Although I didn’t receive responses from internships I applied to that summer, I did get an interview for an on-campus job with Chapman’s Office of Career and Professional Development. During the entire interview, my mind defaulted to sharing my experiences through volunteering and clubs I was involved in during high school. I left the interview anxious, just hoping that my lack of actual job experience would be overlooked. Thankfully, I got the position because of the skills I had learned through volunteering.

Throughout the year, I learned so much about how to make a solid resume, how to personalize my cover letters, how I could use LinkedIn effectively, etc. It doesn’t matter if a position is paid or unpaid or if it is “technically labeled” as a hobby or volunteer work. Instead, recruiters are more interested in what skills you’ve developed, your mistakes and successes, and how you can apply what you’ve learned in the workplace.

Offer 2:

After my first year at Chapman, I applied for many internships at the beginning of summer but wasn’t getting any responses. I was frustrated but reminded myself that any experience is still an experience. So instead of getting discouraged, I shifted gears and started roaming for opportunities on VolunteerMatch. There was an Event Planning Internship at a local Boys and Girls Club, which happened to be what I wanted. I applied, remembering to adjust my resume and cover letter as I had learned, and received an email back inviting me for an interview. Similar to my interview with the Career Office, I referenced my volunteer experience a lot. I talked about how I had developed professionalism, built strong interpersonal skills from working with others, planned events, and had many failures and successes. The interviewer was impressed by my experience, and I successfully landed the position.  

Offer 3:

Reminder: Always update your LinkedIn profile with recent opportunities or accomplishments. And while you’re at it, grow your network by engaging with others on the platform!

While interning with the Boys and Girls Club, I was also mindful of maintaining my LinkedIn profile. I made sure to periodically update it, build my network, and engage on the platform. Through LinkedIn, I reconnected with a member of the adult service organization that partnered with my volunteer club in high school. He remembered my accomplishments and offered me an internship at a local finance company he worked at. I was taken aback by this opportunity because it was the first networking/LinkedIn success I had. I was thankful and excited to explore different avenues for myself.

Quick Tip! Find ways to make your experiences more valuable by focusing on skill development and character building.

I was always reminded in high school that volunteering or joining a club/organization was vital because it can boost my college applications. However, they failed to tell us that it also helps you gain experience that adds value to your resume and positions you as a unique applicant when looking to get an internship/job. Rather than volunteering a few random hours, you have a better return on investment (sorry, business major) from dedicating yourself to something more consistent. You don’t have to be involved in five different organizations, but focus your energy on really making a difference in one or two.

For those of you reading who are no longer in high school, it’s not too late! Volunteering is an experience that is always there; it can not only help you develop skills, but also serve as a way to give back to your community. It is just as relevant now and can definitely be one way to boost your resume.

Resume resources

LinkedIn resources