We often encourage our students to be very aware of the volunteer opportunities that exist in their communities. Our goal is to encourage students to seriously consider volunteering as a means to become more aware of community needs, gain valuable experience, and of course most importantly give to the community.
In 2018 the International Association of Fire Chiefs put out a report entitled the State of the Volunteer Fire Service. One of the most poignant recommendations coming out of this study is that volunteer departments need “be flexible in the services it offers, that creates the opportunity to bring in new members with nontraditional skills.” The association encouraged volunteer departments to seek out candidates who spoke second languages, were interested in fund raising or public relations, or just able to cook a meal. While safety has to be the primary consideration, the association suggested that growing the ranks can be valuable even when every volunteer isn’t trained for every need.
In any case, the association also discussed the core characteristics that any prospective volunteer needs to bring to the table. These include a willingness to continue training and acknowledging your own limitations. They also include loyalty, high-morals, and selflessness. While volunteer departments would love for all volunteers to respond to all calls, it just isn’t practical. If you approach a volunteer department and you do night work consider voicing a commitment to turning out for calls during the normal work-day. Many of the other volunteers may work and have difficulty responding to daytime calls. Just like applying for a job, the student must try to communicate to the administration what characteristics they bring to the table, and discuss why these characteristics might be valuable to the department.
So let’s talk about resumes. First volunteering is a great way to add lines to your resume, but secondly it is also a way to ensure that your resume is in order for the day you need it to get the paying job. Taking the time to think about the needs of your local volunteer department, and articulating how you might be able to help meet those needs is a valuable exercise. It should help you to land that volunteer role, and help you to use that volunteer role to launch your career.
Take the time to prepare a resume now. The exercise can be a little frustrating, but the topic will always be interesting because it is about YOU. If you are an alum, and have some stories about your volunteer service, we would love to hear them. Send them on over to [email protected]