The importance of references to Millennial volunteers

In almost all volunteer role descriptions that I create, one of the benefits for the volunteer that I list (among other like contributing to a cause, connecting with good people, gaining experience in area XYZ) is the provision of a letter of reference (upon request) after successful completion of the role.

For many Millennials, volunteering is not only a way to do something for a mission they care about – the experience is also about career exploration and networking. Help them by making references a part of the recognition and reward of volunteering.

References don’t need to be time-consuming custom reference letters. Here are some ideas to make references less work and more meaningful:

  • Have the volunteer write the reference letter themselves, highlighting what they feel are the most important contributions they made (and that have most relevance to their career goals). Edit it so that it matches your writing style and aligns with your impressions of the young person’s contributions.
  • Provide a LinkedIn reference. A few sentences will do. Less formal than a reference letter, but more public (and therefore, for many Millennials, more valuable).
  • Share positive words via Twitter or Facebook. Link to their profile and say thanks with specific reference to their contributions. If it makes sense to reference their jobs/freelance work/company/website, do that too.