Strengthen career skills through community service

A community service project builds skills that can prepare youth for their future careers

Hands coming together to form a star

There are many skills youth can develop while they are working on community service projects. Community service, by its very nature, is a project intended to help someone else and therefore defined by their needs. However, Michigan 4-H encourages youth to think strategically about how to strengthen their career skills at the same time.

Many aspects of community service involve skills employers value when looking for job candidates. Some of these include planning and organizing, communication and marketing.

Planning a community service project is a great way to develop organizational skills. Projects may range in size from one teen to many people working together, and all will require some level of planning to help the project succeed. It may be helpful for teens to do some goal setting to get started, and then think about putting together an action plan to keep track of who will be doing what.

From listening to the needs of others to giving presentations about the project, communication will be a part of all aspects of a successful project. Youth can use this opportunity to practice their public speaking skills, even if it is just explaining their project to one stranger at a time. Many community service projects are born from the organizer’s ideas of what would be helpful, but a more effective method would be to engage in conversations with local organizations to find out what would be helpful from their perspective. Youth may also be able to improve their written communication skills through grants or press releases.

Community service projects often need the help of additional volunteers or resources to be successful, and teens can learn marketing skills to help them get the word out. This may involve making signs for the project on poster board, display boards or creatively using technology. This could also involve setting up a table display and making decisions about the best placement for displays throughout the community. This is an opportunity to practice skills such as spelling and grammar as well as creativity.

Michigan 4-H has many resources to help youth as they plan and develop community service projects. The 4-H Teen Leadership guide helps youth outline their project as well as providing resources for all the steps along the way. Don’t forget adding these experiences to resumes. Examples can be found on the career exploration section of the Michigan 4-H website.

Engaging in community service is part of the fabric of 4-H, as we pledge “our hands to larger service.” Join the Dare to Serve Challenge as 4-H members, volunteers, alumni and staff take part in community service projects around the state of Michigan. This is part of the National 4-H True Leaders in Service initiative, as 4-Hers around the nation get involved in positive change in their communities.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2017 Impact Report: “MSU Extension: Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact

Did you find this article useful?