Americans have a long history of volunteering that dates to well before the Revolutionary War. From Benjamin Franklin’s creation of the first volunteer firehouse back in 1736 to charitable groups like the American Red Cross, the United Way, and the Salvation Army, the nation’s citizens have a proud tradition of serving their communities’ needs. Without volunteers, vital social causes like the Women’s Suffrage Movement might have taken even longer to accomplish their noble goals.
Today, roughly 25 percent of Americans engage in some form of voluntary activity each year. While most people volunteer to help the less fortunate or just give back to the community, volunteers can also benefit from the experience. In fact, most experts agree that volunteering can even be a wonderful way to advance your career. In this post, we will look at 6 ways that volunteering can help your job search and advance your career.
6 ways volunteering can help your job search efforts
1. Refine your job search process
Many of today’s charitable organizations have processes in place to screen potential volunteers. As a result, applying for a position as a volunteer can sometimes feel like a job application. You can use that to your advantage by approaching the application process in much the same way you would treat any application for a paid job.
Get organized, and go through the same steps you would use to find a new job:
Set a goal that will enable you to best use your talents and skills volunteering for a cause that you hold dear.
Organize your personal and professional information so that you are prepared to complete any required application.
Do your homework to find organizations that align with your goals.
Apply for volunteer positions.
Be prepared to interview for those positions where necessary.
Negotiate to get the role that best suits your talents.
Take the time to successfully complete any onboarding process and acclimate to your volunteer role.
Whether you are employed or unemployed, finding and applying for a volunteer position can provide a tremendous opportunity to hone those job-seeking skills you will eventually need to further your career.
2. Gain invaluable experience
By volunteering your time and effort, you can gain the type of experience that many employers prize. Volunteering can provide you an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to something larger than yourself and display your ability to work well with others and make use of critical soft skills that every work environment needs. This benefit is especially helpful for recent graduates and others with limited work experience.
3. Enhance existing skills and learn new ones
When you choose the right volunteer role, it can be an opportunity to hone your marketable skills and even develop new skills. Those skills can include both hard and soft abilities that you can add to your resume.
For example, you might have an opportunity to expand upon your existing computer abilities or further refine your public speaking or customer service skills. Just be sure to document the skills you use and how they benefit the organization so that you have that information available when you are updating your resume.
4. Find a mentor and expand your network
Never underestimate the value of the contacts you are likely to make while volunteering. Other volunteers, supervisors, organization board members, vendors, and clients can all be valuable additions to your personal and professional network. Make a point of meeting as many of those people as you can to ensure that you build out your network and cultivate those new relationships.
Often, volunteers encounter experienced people who can serve as role models, or even mentors. Depending upon how committed you are to building your network, your volunteer role may provide many opportunities for developing mentor relationships that can prove invaluable as you progress along your career path.
For more insight into the value of networking, read 5 Reasons Why Networking is Vital for Career Development.
5. Explore new industries and occupations
Volunteering can also be a fantastic way to explore new career options. For example, if you have been thinking about switching your career to a growth industry like healthcare, volunteering at a hospital can provide you with insight into the types of jobs available in that field. In addition, you would also gain access to networking opportunities with nurses, doctors, administrators, and other healthcare workers. Those connections could prove useful in your future career endeavors.
6. Fill employment gaps on your resume
Obviously, today’s socially conscious employers tend to view charitable activities favorably, so it is helpful to have volunteer experience on your resume. Being able to include time spent as a volunteer can be even more important when you are trying to plug employment gaps in that resume. You may want to keep that in mind during any period of unemployment and be sure to volunteer while you are searching for a new job. That will help to ensure that you can show employers that you spent your time between jobs wisely.
When listing your volunteer work on your resume, you can add it as its own section or simply include it in your work history or educational section. Use the same chronological order that you use to list your previous jobs and schools. Also be sure to include all transferable skills that you used during your time as a volunteer, to ensure that your charitable activities properly highlight your potential value as an employee
How to find the right volunteer activities for you
Now that you understand how volunteering can help in your job search efforts and career development, the next step is to find the right charitable endeavor for your personality and abilities. Volunteer jobs can involve everything from helping at a food pantry to building homes for the poor, assisting at animal shelters, and many other important causes. You can find opportunities near you at websites like Points of Light, VolunteerMatch, Catchafire, Americorps, and the United Way. You can also Google “volunteer opportunities” to find a host of other fantastic organizations and resources.
Being a volunteer can provide a wide range of personal benefits that help you to better understand yourself, develop greater self-confidence, and find a deeper sense of fulfillment in life. It can also be a valuable way for you to differentiate yourself from other job search candidates and highlight your value to potential employers.
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers and career experts located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.