Are you looking to gain a competitive advantage in the job market? It may sound counterintuitive, but there are a number of ways that volunteering can help you get a job. If there's a cause you care about and you're willing to share your time and talent, you just might find that your generous gesture helps you make progress toward your career goals. Explore key benefits of volunteering for job seekers and find out how it can increase your chances of employment.
Boost Your Resume via Volunteering
Volunteering provides you with an opportunity to elevate your resume in substantive ways. Barring finding a paying job that will pay you to learn, there's no better way to gain practical experience and master new skills.
- Get practical experience - If you have studied or trained to work in an occupation that's new to you, volunteering provides a way for you to get practical, real-world experience that can help you stand out from others who seek to enter the field. Add this experience to your resume, either in a section specific to volunteer work or as an additional item in the experience section. Be sure to specify that your role there is/was a volunteer one, so there is no confusion about your status.
- Master new skills - Do you want to expand your skillset? Volunteering provides a way for you to develop and hone new skills that will help you change careers or prepare you for better opportunities in your current field. If you need real-world leadership experience, volunteer to spearhead a committee. Wish you knew how to do website work? You'll learn a lot if you volunteer for a nonprofit organization's digital marketing committee.
Build Your Network
Who you know, especially if those people have seen what a good worker you are in action, has a lot to do with job search success. That's why business networking is so important for job seekers and for those trying to achieve career advancement.
- Become well-connected - Volunteer opportunities tend to attract well-connected, influential people. When you volunteer, you'll have an opportunity to get to know such individuals. If you make a good impression on them, chances are they'll spread the word about how great you are. They're sure to recommend you to their connections who can benefit from your skills, which can help you further expand your network.
- Expand your reference list - The people you meet when you do volunteer work will learn about your work habits and skills as you team up with them on projects. This means they'll have unique insights into your reliability, work ethic, and other factors that employers want to know. Once you get to know your fellow volunteers, ask a few of them to serve as professional references. This is a great way to diversify your list of references beyond teachers or past employers.
Discover Job Opportunities
When you volunteer, let it be known that you're in the market for employment. Chances are that other volunteers and people who work for the nonprofit with which you're volunteering will help you discover suitable opportunities.
- Get job leads - If you get along well with other volunteers, they might like the idea of working with you in their regular job. If so, they're sure to ask around at the office about upcoming positions and give you the inside track on how to apply. This can give you a head start on the job, as they'll probably find out about openings long before they're advertised to the general public. They'll probably put in a good word for you too.
- Transition to employment - Nonprofit organizations don't usually operate solely with volunteers; most have some paid employees. When a job opens up at a charitable organization, it's natural for the decision-makers to look to the pool of volunteers as potential hires. If you've proven you have a knack for fundraising or inspiring volunteers, you just may find yourself being offered a position in development or volunteer services.
Develop Positive Workplace Behaviors
Volunteer work can also help you cultivate positive workplace behaviors that employers find desirable. Since employers are just as concerned with how employees will impact the company's culture as with skills, this can help position you for success.
- Demonstrate initiative - When you do volunteer work, look for opportunities to show initiative, so the people you add to your network will be able to describe you as a go-getter who never encounters a problem without suggesting a potential solution. You can accomplish this by proactively seeking opportunities to get involved. Be forthcoming by sharing ideas and suggestions, and do more than you have to do in order to fulfill your minimum obligations.
- Build team communication skills - Serving on project committees as a volunteer is a great way to strengthen your ability to communicate effectively as part of a team in a professional environment. As such, volunteering is a great way to develop work habits that will empower you to be a better team member. You'll have real-world examples to share with employers about how you approach teamwork and how you contribute positively to the team.
Volunteering Can Pave a Path to Success
As you can see, volunteering can help increase a person's chances of employment in many ways. Whether you're looking for a way to move forward along your career path, or you're helping someone else who is trying to find a job, don't overlook the value of volunteering. For students and early career professionals, volunteering can pave the way for their first job or a better job. For those with more experience who are looking to advance or to make a mid-career change, volunteering may be the ultimate source for gaining a competitive advantage.