LAST TIME WE noted that recruitment firms and prospective employers look favourably on candidates who can include volunteer service on their resumes. Such experience can be gained in many ways. This week we examine some individual cases to see how students can develop their skills and personalities by helping others while, at the same time, helping themselves to compete for the best jobs after graduation. Canadian-born Candice Gee Yee-ling, a final-year marketing student, joined a University of Hong Kong (HKU) exchange programme in September last year. She has been a regular volunteer, mostly for school programmes run in partnership with community organisations. She has worked with handicapped children and the homeless, and believes this experience has taught her to appreciate the small things in life and to empathise more with others. At university in Canada, Ms Gee served on a student body that organised activities to help people develop career skills. Although the group worked well as a team, there were the inevitable disagreements and frustrations. 'The experience gave me a glimpse of the real working world,' Ms Gee said. 'The need to get along with others and accept alternative ideas and different personalities taught me that you sometimes have to take a step back in challenging situations if you want things to work out productively.' During her time at HKU, Ms Gee participated in the English tutoring programme at King's College, spending a few hours a week leading an after-school course for a group of students aged 13 to 15. 'Because I grew up in Canada, I gained a wide English vocabulary at a young age,' Ms Gee said, adding that her goal was to help her student group gain a similar vocabulary level. Interacting with local students has taught her much about the Hong Kong education system. She is also happy to share her knowledge of Canada and other parts of the world. 'It has been a great cultural experience,' she said. 'We don't all see the world in the same way, which is something I have to remember.' She said the ability to embrace cultural differences was crucial to succeeding in Hong Kong or the Asia-Pacific region. 'Being on exchange is a great experience anyway, but volunteering has allowed me to be part of society here at a deeper level,' Ms Gee said. Behind every good student is an inspiring parent or teacher. In the case of Francesca Lau Wen-ting, another final-year HKU student, the inspiration has been her mother. 'My mother is very active in volunteer work and is an excellent role model,' said Ms Lau, who has tutored children from underprivileged families under various community schemes. 'My school had a very strong volunteer culture and it encouraged the students to get involved,' she said. 'Before working with disadvantaged people, we were briefed about the types of questions to ask or avoid. Volunteer work has made me more compassionate and a better all-round person.' In the job market interpersonal skills are as important as a good academic record. Many employers insist on knowing how well candidates can adapt to different social and team settings. They also take special note of a candidate's communication and presentation skills. Samuel Tang Chun-on, who will complete his law degree at HKU next year, said his volunteer experience had boosted his confidence in dealing with other people and working in a team. In the past two years Mr Tang has been involved with the Hong Kong Young Ambassador Scheme, promoting the city's image to tourists. He said that interacting with members of the local community and visitors from around the world had broadened his horizons. 'I will have many experiences to talk about at job interviews,' he said. 'Volunteering has helped me build a new network of friends and given me extra confidence. Helping others is fun and meaningful, and I am proud to be contributing to Hong Kong.' Many volunteer programmes offer the chance to learn about leadership while helping the community. Patricia Lam Pui-chee is a final-year student of business and law at HKU. As a Form Six student, she volunteered for the Hong Kong Union for Young Leaders and served on a committee of senior student mentors. This involved motivating fellow students to volunteer and organising leadership camps and speaker programmes to nurture young leaders. 'I have always enjoyed inspiring and influencing others,' Ms Lam said. 'Participation in these activities has also honed my leadership skills.' As a recent graduate of the City University of Hong Kong, Teenly Hung Nga-san has contributed hundreds of hours as a volunteer with music organisations, such as the Hong Kong Youth Symphonic Band. She has been part of many concerts as a performer on stage and as a helper behind the scenes. 'This involvement helped me discover a passion for planning events,' she said. 'It led me to pursue marketing and communication studies at university, and helped me to learn more about myself and build skills in what I enjoy doing. Performing also gave me a new level of self-confidence.' Students interested in giving back to the community through volunteer work, while gaining valuable skills and contacts, can refer to the Agency for Volunteer Service. This is a database referral service that matches individuals with suitable organisations in Hong Kong. Ho-Sum, a non-profit organisation, also helps registered charities recruit volunteers on a one-off or project basis.