Youth can gain career skills through community service

Being involved in community service projects help youth learn important career skills such as communication skills and problem solving abilities.

High school students who are writing their first résumé sometimes struggle to fill out the experience section.  Part-time afterschool jobs are one way to get experience (as well as to learn how to manage money).  Michigan State University Extension recommends another approach to gaining valuable employment experience: becoming involved in community service projects.  Michigan 4-H members are often involved in community service projects as part of their club activities, and there are many leadership and life skills that can be gained through these efforts. 

Youth can be involved in all aspects of a community service project, from planning and organizing to implementing and evaluating.  Many of the skills necessary for a successful project are the same skills employers are looking for in job applicants, such as communication skills, teamwork, budgeting skills and critical thinking abilities. 

A strategic teenager can use opportunities such as community service projects to increase their skills in areas they might have weaknesses.  For example, if a youth feels they are not comfortable with public speaking, they might choose ways to practice these in their project, such as surveying citizens about community needs or making a progress report to their club.  It is often helpful to work with someone to learn these skills; youth can work with adult facilitators to practice problem solving skills, or learn record-keeping techniques from other youth.  In this way, youth are able to understand the real-world applications of these skills, as well as having a chance to use them in a practical manner. 

After youth gain experience by working on a community service project, they can put these experiences on their résumé.  It is not necessary that all experience on a résumé be only paid employment; any opportunity where a youth can demonstrate their skills is important to include.  They can label the section “Experience” rather than “Work” or “Work Experience,” and make sure to include all the same information as they would for paid positions, such as the dates, supervisor (adult facilitator), and responsibilities. 

Michigan 4-H has many resources available for youth who are working on résumés.  Check out the Career Preparation website as well as other articles on this subject. 

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