Volunteering provides youth with valuable career exploration experience

Career assessments, job shadowing and internships are all valuable for teens exploring career options, but volunteering can provide another path to learning about career options.

Career exploration comes in various forms, such as career assessments, job shadowing and internships. How about volunteering for career exploration? Teens can start by thinking of the various careers they might be interested in and thinking of ways they can volunteer related to the different career fields. A good place to start if someone is unsure of their career interests is to take a career assessment.

Career assessments are guides that give teens direction by taking an evaluation or questionnaire on their interests and skills. Career assessments can be a good place to start for not only a potential career field but also taking a step toward a career field through volunteering. The MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Careers website has information on various career assessment websites to assist youth in discovering their career interests.

Once various career interests are discovered, teens can locate different organizations or businesses in their community that may cater to their career interest. For the different business and service organizations in the community, teens should take the initiative to contact them and find out if there are opportunities to volunteer. For some information on different service organizations for volunteering, try the MSU Extension 4-H Citizenship, Leadership and Service website for Community Service Organizations. In general, some service organizations and businesses have an application and orientation process that prospective volunteers must go through to become a volunteer. This type of process is good practice for teens and exposes them to the process of applying for employment.

There are benefits for youth who take the initiative to use volunteering as a method for career exploration. Just like internships, volunteering will allow youth to build skills, gain experience and gain support. For example, refer to the following article from 2006 by Sandra Kao in Michigan 4-H Today, Teen Explores Career Option through Volunteering.” In this article, teen Shaniqua Davis participated in a 4-H program and volunteered at a hospital. As you read this article, keep the following questions in mind:

  1. What skills were gained through volunteering?
  2. What type of experience was gained through volunteering?
  3. What type of support was gained through volunteering?

All youth pursuing any career after high school should consider taking the steps of volunteering and experiencing the benefits of volunteering as a method for career exploration. Please visit the MSU Extension Michigan 4-H website for more information on career and workforce preparation and citizenship, leadership, and service opportunities.

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