Perhaps you’re just getting started in the field and notice that there’s a lot of steps to this career. Feeling overwhelmed is totally normal. So where do you start?
Perhaps you’re finishing up your practicum and feel like your resume still isn’t up to par with your peers.
Maybe this is your third time applying for internships and your application continues to get overlooked.
This one is for you.
Volunteer experience (as well as job experience, but that is sometimes harder to commit to during college) is so very important for building your resume. This shows practicum and internship coordinators that you are committed to the field because they can see it through everything that you do. Make sure you’re choosing experiences and opportunities that you can talk about in an interview and that helps set you apart from other applicants; no sense in wasting time on something you can’t put on your resume.
What volunteer experience should I always have on my resume?
Volunteering at a local children’s hospital is a MUST for anyone pursuing child life. Most practicums and internships require that you have a certain number of volunteer hours in a hospital setting before you’re even eligible to apply to their program.
This is not as difficult as some people think it is. Being able to volunteer under a Certified Child Life Specialist is fairly easy to do if you get in touch with the right people. Most hospitals will have you contact their volunteer services department to get started. I have a rule with our volunteer coordinator that if anyone says they’re actively pursuing child life, they get pushed to the front of the list to volunteer. So use your resources and let whoever you get plugged in with know what it is you’re looking for and why.
What can I do to help me stand out?
Get connected with volunteer opportunities that work specifically with children. Here are a few examples of where to start looking:
- Grief/Bereavement groups for children
- American Cancer Society Volunteer Driver
- for cancer patients and their families going to and from treatment
- Make-A-Wish Foundation
- Ronald McDonald House/Family Room
- Summer camps for specific diagnoses
- cancer, autism, Down Syndrome, diabetes, or cerebral palsy – there are so many more! Click here to find one in your state!
- Sibling support groups (Sibshops)
- for children with siblings who have special needs, personality disorders, or who have passed away
- Mentor a child in foster care
- Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer
- Boys & Girls Club
- Emergency Shelter Services (for women and children)
- Children’s Museums
- Children’s sports teams
- Children’s section of the library
- Center for the Homeless
- Any church nurseries or youth groups
Any number of these sprinkled on your resume will help you stand out amongst other applicants. My recommendation is to get started in some of these opportunities ASAP and STAY in whatever organizations you choose for a number of months or years.
What doesn’t look good on a resume is lots of opportunities but only 10 hours of volunteer experience for each location. We want to see that you’re consistent, dedicated and determined. So pick something you could see yourself staying in long-term. This will also benefit you when you need letters of recommendation because the people you’ll ask will be people who have seen your work with children for months or years and can truly speak to your strengths!
Best of luck to you all and happy volunteering!
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