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5 Brilliant Ways Volunteering Can Help Develop Your Career

Posted by Davone Hills on March 8, 2018

Entering the working world? Thinking of making a career change? Do you need some experience or new skillsets to increase your marketability in the job hunt?

Volunteering for a nonprofit organization could be the bridge you need to fill that gap. It can help you:

  • Gain work experience
  • Develop your skills
  • Grow your network
  • Get to know yourself
  • Increase your marketability

While volunteering for a nonprofit organization is a great way of serving your community, you will be shocked by the amount of self-improvement you gain from the experience. It is an excellent way to keep your skills up-to-date, develop new ones, expand your network, gain practical experience, work with people you can learn from and help you progress in your career.

Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and at no financial gain. It provides free resources to an organization so that it can meet its mission or goals. There are many opportunities out there, whether you are interested in community service groups, political organizations, or religious institutions; there is a nonprofit you can add value to and build experience from. A history of volunteering demonstrates your commitment to the community and a willingness to work for the betterment of others.


Gain work experience 

Have you seen a job post and felt you had what it took to be successful at it, but fall short of the work experience you need? You can often volunteer at an organization that does the type of work you are interested in. Based on a Deloitte study of 2,506 U.S. hiring managers, 82% of those who were asked said they prefer applicants with volunteer experience in their field. By volunteering, you are increasing your chances of staying employable and achieving meaningful career goals.


Develop your skills

Volunteering is one of the best ways to expand your skillsets. Based on the same Deloitte study, 92% agree that volunteer activities build leadership skills and 82% say that candidates had better communication skills. Find an organization and start volunteering. It does not just mean cleaning up parks, waterways or answering phones. Nonprofits have a wide array of roles that could be of interest including event planning, accounting, graphic design, and computing to name a few. VolunteerMatch is a great resource to start your search. You have the opportunity to try a ton of different challenges using various skills. Be realistic about your current skill level and seek areas to develop so you qualify for a more challenging position in the future.


Grow your network

You will have a whole new world of interactions, expanding your network to people you would probably never encounter. You will meet people in the industry that can likely inform you of other opportunities. In 2015, The Bureau of Labor Statistics for volunteering in the United States found that 65.3% of individuals with higher education levels were more likely to volunteer, meaning your chances for meeting professionals in the field are significant.


“Volunteer relationships are particularly beneficial since many of the folks you interact with while volunteering are usually driven, conscientious professionals who can be a great referral.”

Nicole Williams 


Keep a list of contacts you make while volunteering. This could include staff, board members, and other volunteers. The future is brighter when you shape it in an organization and engage with people. You will see opportunities sprout from that.


Get to know yourself

In addition to showing your values, volunteering can help you access your skill level without any threat to your current job standing. Understanding your level of skill, accomplishments, values, and interests is the foundation of career success. You are full of desirable talents and skills. Volunteering will stretch your knowledge and challenge your abilities. Knowing your potential to grow and develop can build the confidence you need to apply yourself to greater challenges.


Increase your marketability 

Developing marketable skills in a volunteer role will aid your job search. Volunteer experience is more valuable than you probably think. Based on a LinkedIn survey, 41% of hiring managers’ value volunteer and paid experience equally.


“What we’re hearing on the employer side is that if the volunteer experience is relevant to your career goal, include it.”

- Carol Fishman Cohen


Companies that value volunteer experiences understand the benefits to their employees and the community. Research from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business shows employees that volunteer tend to feel happier and more productive in the workplace. Take the opportunity to improve your career along with your own well-being.

Expanding your network of professional contacts through volunteering provides you with more opportunities to engage with people that can help you grow in your career. The people you meet volunteering will be able to vouch for you to others in their networks. These contacts will be more credible, as they have direct experience working with you. They can validate your reliability, competence, and ability to work with others.


In conclusion 

When you include volunteer experience on your resume, you are taking steps that present a picture of a well-rounded candidate. Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate you have the skills and success that could make an excellent addition to a company’s team. Don’t sell yourself short by overlooking the advantages volunteering experience can provide to the community and your career.

Topics: Training, For Recent Grads