Exploring Career Paths Through Volunteering: Five Ways Community Engagement Promotes Professional Development

Volunteering provides powerful opportunities to explore career paths. From pursuing your interests and passions to embracing real-world applications of course content, community engagement is an excellent way to consider post-grad possibilities while learning about yourself and the local community in the process.

The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) is a valuable resource on campus for discovering partnerships with community organizations located off campus! As a staff member with the CCE, I have the rewarding responsibility of connecting students, faculty, and staff to community partners and support as we collaborate on impactful projects.

Let’s dive deeper into five ways volunteering promotes career exploration and professional development:

  1. Exploring different roles within an organization. Maybe you’re interested in pursuing pre-health and consider volunteering at the American Red Cross. Through volunteering with an organization, you will likely collaborate with a wide range of professionals, from the nurses and healthcare providers facilitating blood drives to health and safety instructors, volunteer recruitment specialists, international field office coordinators and so many more. By volunteering with an organization, you are broadening the scope of potential career opportunities that exist underneath one umbrella organization. As the Fleishman Center emphasizes: your major does not equal your career. By exploring different jobs that relate to your passions and talents through volunteering, you remain open to new possibilities that you may not have known before.
  2. Building a base of professionalism and transferable skills. Binghamton University is dedicated to preparing students for whatever path they forge post-graduation. To do that, we must foster not only discipline-specific knowledge in and outside of the classroom but also transferable, “soft” skills that apply to professionals across industry-specific standards. Volunteering is a phenomenal way to cultivate those skills. Communication, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, leadership, teamwork and professionalism (including but not limited to time management, dependability and integrity) are some of the NACE Core Competencies for Career Readiness. They are also a vital component of an impactful and meaningful volunteer experience. Many students who volunteer or intern with the Youth Initiative reflect on their experience and how it supported their approach to working with people from different backgrounds. By spending time with K-12 students and school administrators off campus, they are learning how to work as a team with people who approach each task with a wide variety of life experiences and perspectives. Identifying some of the root causes you might address during your volunteer experience will not only sharpen your critical thinking skills but also refine your ability to accept new information and apply it to the task at hand.
  3. Nurturing relationships and growing your network. Volunteering provides the opportunity to meet new people and build relationships with peers, faculty, staff and community partners. Many of our local community partners are as invested in your growth, career exploration and skill-building as we are here on campus! We never know what these relationships might spark. Whether it is someone’s personal narrative that inspires us to explore a certain career path, an exciting local restaurant recommendation, or a leadership opportunity to further develop your skills, connecting with community partners is an enriching way to grow your personal and professional network.
  4. Learning about our local community. Volunteering during your time as a Binghamton student is a wonderful way to discover Broome County and the local community. We are in a special part of the world! From the scenic outdoor landscapes like Otsiningo Park to exciting entertainment options like LUMA, local historic sites like the Phelps Mansion and opportunities to investigate the past and imagine the future at Roberson Museum and Science Center, and much more: this community has so much to enjoy. Cultivating a sense of home wherever you are is a skill that will benefit you for life. By volunteering, we can more readily embrace the strengths of our community and feel empowered to remain active and engaged in civic life.
  5. Making our community stronger. Of course, volunteering allows us to contribute our time and talents towards strengthening our community. Volunteering can be a celebration of our commitment to creating healthy, vibrant communities when we pursue our engagement with thoughtfulness, intention, and collaboration. The mutual benefit enjoyed by you and the communities you serve is something you will carry with you for life.

As you consider different opportunities to get involved off campus, I encourage you to contact or visit the CCE! We are here to support your learning and connect you with meaningful initiatives to impact positive change.

By Kyra Hickey
Kyra Hickey Community Engagement Coordinator