This September 11th marks the 18th anniversary when America stood still. Nearly 3,000 individuals lost their lives to several vicious attacks on our country. Out of those casualties, 403 were servicemen and women who rose and upheld their promise to protect and serve the people of this nation. While this day has been ingrained in our minds and hearts as arguably the most devastating moment our country has faced, it has been transformed to honor the citizens who responded swiftly to the call for help.
In 2009, Congress passed legislation that marked September 11 as a federally recognized day known as Patriot Day/National Day of Service and Remembrance. Above mourning the 9/11 victims and survivors, it is a day to pay tribute to those who aided in response to the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. Organizations and volunteers unite through blood drives, refurbishing homes, food drives, and various other activities to strengthen their communities. It is the biggest day in the nation to volunteer.
The objective of volunteering is to provide a service that uplifts the community to better the future of others. Summer’s almost over and many young adults across the country are exiting their summer jobs to pursue careers by starting some form of post-high school education. While I encourage all young adults to find an organization to give their time this September 11, I also ask that you further your volunteer experience beyond this point. Consider that volunteering is not solely benefiting others, it also contributes to success in your future endeavors.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma that overshadows volunteering. Many young adults see it as an activity with nothing to gain. For this sole reason, many young adults would rather work any menial job over volunteering because of the tangible outcomes (e.g. money). On the contrary, volunteering is more than “working for free.” For starters, you can choose an organization that aligns with your career choice. It will be a great opportunity for you to gain experience, knowledge and sharpen your skills. Additionally, by the time you are done with higher education, you will have an edge over other job seekers by having the competitive advantage of holistic insight into the industry.
Volunteering also strengthens something that employers are captivated by with their employees and look for in new hires; that is, soft skills. Soft skills are interpersonal attributes that help you succeed in the workplace, but cannot be measured using numbers. Regardless of what your career path is, volunteering will help you sharpen and master your soft skills. Some of the universal skills employers look for that you will learn while volunteering are: interpersonal skills, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, time management, and professionalism. Employers look for individuals with these skills because they impact company success by understanding everyday problems and finding solutions daily.
Lastly, the underlying advantage of volunteering is that you are networking. You are building a connection with organizations, leaders, and potential employers that you align within your field, so when you are done with school and begin job searching, the places you volunteered at may have a position available for you with opportunity for growth. If you decide you want to work for another organization, the experience does not diminish. It can be noted on your resume as experience, and you will once again have an advantage over your colleagues who are applying for the same job! You can begin your job search with Work-in-Texas, the largest job search database in the State of Texas!
Find an opportunity this September 11 to honor those who served on this tragic day by making a difference in your community, but keep in mind that volunteering is also a moment to promote your knowledge, skills, and abilities for the future. Continue this process throughout your life, and you’ll surely make a difference in someone else’s life, while also making key industry connections that will lead to the next chapter in your career!
Omar Martinez is a Regional Facilitator for Workforce Solutions in the Houston – Galveston Region. Prior to joining the team, Omar served as a resource specialist helping customers get back into the workforce by reviewing current labor market information, job-readiness skills, and community resources. Omar’s continued driving force is to help customers get a job, keep a job, or get a better job by conducting job skills seminars throughout the 13 counties of the Gulf Coast region. He holds a B.S. in Psychology and a Minor in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Houston.