There are many benefits to volunteering that will propel your career to the next stage.
Whether you'll be graduating soon, already have a job, or are actively seeking employment, having volunteer experience on your resume will help with your career.
Not only is it great experience for any job seeker to have volunteered their time and learned more about their trade, but it also shows that you are a hard worker and dedicated to improving your knowledge in your field of interest.
Also, instead of having a hole in your resume, you can fill it with volunteer work.
Here are a few more benefits of volunteering.
It helps build your network
Through volunteering, you'll meet all kinds of people that might have openings in their organization or know someone who does, as well as the right people to put you in touch with.
If nothing else, you'll likely find some good references if you do impressive volunteer work.
You'll learn new skills
Volunteering can open up a world of opportunities to learn more, while also giving you a chance to use your own skills in new ways. Organization, research, and good communication skills, for example, can be applicable to many different industries.
Volunteering looks good on a resume
Not only is volunteering philanthropic, but it also shows that you are dedicated. This can really help your resume stand out since many hiring managers look for this quality when scanning the hundreds of applications they receive a day.
When a job seeker is in a financial position to volunteer, it can be a great opportunity to not only expand professional networks, but even improve job-search positioning and amp up your resume. In fact, many job seekers do not realize that volunteer activity can be included in the "experience" section of a resume — if the role meets these criteria:
First: It is best that the experience is consistent and ongoing for a period of time, whether one commits to volunteering two or 20 hours per week.
Second: Seek opportunities that are formal and can be tracked by the organization. Not only does this help the organization, but it can help avoid any confusion should a potential employer call to verify involvement with the organization.
Third: Be sure the opportunity will allow you to demonstrate professional skills that are relevant to the workplace so that you can add further value to your job-search campaign.
Volunteering a specific skill set may also build relationships that could pay off in the long run. For example, if a graphic designer volunteers their time, nonprofits might remember the designer and, when times are better, this could lead to a job or a referral.
Perhaps just as important, volunteering can help job seekers overcome the feeling of isolation. Being in a professional environment, collaborating with peers, and keeping skills sharp are benefits that contribute to overall self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.
This, in turn, can energize your whole job search and this improvement in motivation and achievement will be carried into an interview.
How to find volunteer opportunities
Now that you know why and how volunteering can help your job-search chances, how do you find the right opportunity for you? Make sure to consider these tips:
Figure out what you want: Make sure to consider what skills you want to work on, what you have to offer, what the purpose of this volunteering is for you, and your time availability. It will help narrow down your options.
Join your alumni association: Your alumni association is a great source for many career opportunities, especially volunteering.
Search online using websites geared specifically towards skill-based volunteering: These websites include HandsOn Connect, Serve.gov, and TaprootPlus (for pro bono work). Other strictly virtual volunteering sites you can check include Catchafire, which has virtual opportunities for skilled volunteers, VolunteerMatch, and Help from Home.
Ultimately, volunteering is a low-risk and (potentially) high-return investment of time that can breathe new life into your job search!
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This article was updated in September 2020 by Danielle Elmers.