You may or may not know it, but if you are in the trenches of volunteer leadership in Young Life, you are gaining marketable skills for future jobs. When I came out of college I applied for entry-level jobs and was quickly passed up the line for management positions. In fact, I never had an entry-level position (except when I quit to go on YL staff as an intern!). In one particular company I was the only person in my job without an MBA and I did just fine. I give much of the credit to the leadership I was taught and learned as a Young Life volunteer.
One of our key leaders, Alex Devine, recently graduated and was hired by an incredible company out-of-state. I asked him to write up some of his thoughts about his process. Here is what he had to say…
You just graduated from college, and the inner desires of your heart (or your parents, and area director) are passionate about you finding a job/career/internship that uses the talents and gifts that God’s so uniquely gifted you with. Your wisdom and instinct tells you that a resume is necessary. As you start listing out your degree, your previous job experience and your volunteer work, Young Life comes to mind. You’ve been a volunteer leader or a team leader in Young Life for any amount of years while you were in college, and now you’re trying to turn those years of leading high school, middle school, teen moms, or special needs kids into some notes on your resume. Here’s where you are, and here’s where I hope I’m able to chime in and give some advice.
I recently found myself in this exact position. In 2007 I moved from Texas to attend school at Arizona State University. I was a volunteer leader in Cave Creek, Arizona at Cactus Shadows High School for 1-½ years, and the volunteer team leader for 3-½ years.
As a volunteer leader…
– Don’t ever forget that you’re on a Young Life “team.” Companies & organizations appreciate when someone can be self-motivated and able to work independently, but they hold the ability to work on a team for the greater good at a much higher level.
– Are you the “organizer” on your team? Young Life gives leaders numerous opportunities to organize varying types of events. Think about where you have stepped up to lead whether it is at club or, campaigners, at banquet events, on summer staff or an internship, or maybe you’ve had the opportunity to be on a weekend or summer long assignment team. You have to an organizational or event planner mindset to move and lead 50-500 people and these moments translate into skills on your resume that others might not have.
– Take a moment and think about the kind of kids you mentor. I think a lot of leaders don’t realize that God has specifically given us unique gifts to reach those kids. Do you reach the kids that are creative and artsy? Maybe you reach the kids that come from broken homes, or maybe you’ve reached out to kids that are addicted to drugs. The type of kids you reach says a lot about who God’s put in your life, but also about the kind of qualities God’s given you specifically. If you’re reaching the kids with rough families, drug issues, and identity issues, you often have to be a patient leader, one with strong wisdom and guidance, someone that can communicate well in tough, and urgent situations. If you’re reaching the creative types, the drama kids, the musicians, the art kids, that might mean you yourself are gifted or at least passionate about some of those very things as well. Not just anyone can listen to a song written by a high school kid’s band, enjoy it or kindly critique it (haha, sometimes honesty is a good thing). Likewise, kids more and more are passionate about photography or graphic design, and being gifted and passionate about those areas of art translate into marketing skills, and non-verbal communication skills.
As a team leader…
– Where have you used your wisdom? Early on in being a team leader I started taking notes after clubs, camps and campaigners that went particularly great or particularly bad. In the long run those notes turned into tangible knowledge and would guide my decisions as a team leader to try and make the wisest decisions I could for my team and my Young Life kids. Things like, how many spots to reserve for camp, how to get more kids at club hearing about Christ, how to train volunteer leaders, and how to create a strong unity on your team are all guided by the decisions team leaders make. Team Leaders make decisions with wisdom and prayer in both urgent and patient situations, this kind of skill sets don’t come naturally, as it’s something we grow into and comes with experience, that means you are viable to the job world that needs a person with experienced leadership.
– Cast some vision and take some chances. As a team leader it’s in the inner desires of our heart to see a stronger Young Life team, a clubroom that has kids packed into every corner, a campaigners that has kids ready and willing to learn more about the God that loves them and gives them life, taking the most kids in your area to camp, and having more and more opportunities to share our relationship with God with the kids God’s put on our heart. All of those things require some vision casting. Casting vision is probably the wisest thing you can do as a team leader, and it easily translates into some great job skills. Start-up companies are incredibly popular right now. Companies both in their early stages and old companies in their reinvention stages need someone that can cast the vision for success and chase that vision. When companies are attempting to be unique, competitive and successful they need someone that can be passionate about those the things and cast the vision that puts them in that direction.
– Communication is key. Companies and organizations these days can’t waste time because of poor communication skills. You the Young Life leader live and breathe communication. We are a part of an organization that teaches us about the “right to be heard.” As we reach out and try to meet kids and be apart of their lives we have to gauge when we really have the right to speak into their life and have some great conversation. I’ve seen this skill translate into the strong friendships I’ve built over the years, in my family, and in my work environment as well. Being able to wisely determine when communication is key and being able to clearly convey what is needed in a situation at work on a project or even just with co-workers is a valuable talent that comes from years leading Young Life.
– We are great relationally. Young Life is a relational ministry, we are gifted with the ability to be apart of people’s lives, care for them, and speak into their lives. The culture that companies create in the work place is becoming more and more an important feature to companies.