Students: Need work experience in your resume? Volunteer.

By Fernando Coreas

When I was an undergraduate student, I spoke to multiple prospective employers and would always ask about what they look for in candidates. Well, work experience was mentioned numerous times. How would I get work experience if I can’t even get a job? You see where this is going. I decided that I would volunteer my time instead and get work experience that way. You can find volunteering opportunities through not-for-profit organizations or by networking.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) serves low-income individuals and families. Through VITA offices near your school or home, you can volunteer your time to prepare taxes. Being a tax accountant was not something I wanted as a career; however, this opportunity was extremely beneficial to me in learning more about personal taxes and helping individuals. Furthermore, this opportunity gives you the ability to network with professionals at all levels in their careers, from accounting clerks to CFOs to people outside of the accounting department. Who knows, you may get a job through someone you meet while volunteering. So, free up some time in your calendar and find the nearest VITA site.

The people you know may also be able to connect you with different types of volunteering opportunities. One of my professors was heavily involved in the entrepreneurial scene and introduced me to a local angel fund. I was given the opportunity to attend a few of their meetings where entrepreneurs would pitch their ideas and the group would decide whether to move forward with a due diligence or not. Part of this due diligence involves looking at their financial models and the assumptions made. I had no idea what that meant, but decided to ask the fund manager if I could help with that part, at no cost to the fund. I was given the opportunity to help and was able to get some invaluable experience in those transactions.

So, if you find yourself always hitting the “experience required” roadblock, get out and volunteer your time. Who knows, you may get involved in some really interesting work or even get a job.

Fernando Coreas currently works at CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP, performing transaction advisory for mergers and acquisitions. He is also a student at Wake Forest University, where he is completing his MBA. Previously, Fernando attended Johnson and Wales University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in management accounting. He served in the US Marine Corps as a Crew Chief on UH-1N helicopters.