Using Volunteer Work to Improve Your Career Prospects

the benefits of volunteeringThanks to the recession, most employers have no shortage of candidates to pick from, so it pays to find ways to make your own application stand out as much as possible. Volunteer work is one way to do this but it doesn’t appeal to everyone due to the fact that it’s not going to earn you any money for your time. You might not be thrilled at the prospect of working for nothing, but being a volunteer can benefit you just as much as the organization that you’re working for. Here are a few of the advantages:

You can gain experience. This can be crucial if you don’t currently have much in the way of experience. I graduated not long ago and have been self-employed until now, but the idea of a steady paycheck is very appealing. Unfortunately for me, I’m somewhat lacking in the kind of job skills that employers are going to want, and I’d probably struggle to find even a part-time job given my lack of experience. Volunteer work isn’t just of benefit if your employment history is sparse though – it can also help if you want to change careers and don’t have relevant experience in the field that you want to move into. Many volunteer roles offer on-the-job training, which is a good way to get training or qualifications that would be useful when it comes to applying for paid work in the future.

You can develop “transferable” skills. Even if you’re not going to be gaining relevant career experience (for example, maybe you want to volunteer to work with animals or children when your career field is finance or sales), chances are that you’ll be using “transferable” job skills like teamwork, communication, problem solving, and being able to work independently, all of which are skills that can be highlighted on a resume. However “soft” and inconsequential these skills may appear on paper, they’re often looked on favorably by employers, especially if you’ve not had the chance to demonstrate them in paid positions. They are also great skills to touch on during an interview.

It fills gaps on your resume. If you’ve been out of work for a while or worry that it could be some time before you find a new job, taking on a volunter position can fill a gap in your resume while you’re between jobs (which an employer could otherwise question).

You can gain contacts. Even if you’re only volunteering one day per week, you’re still mixing with a wider group of people than you normally would. Who knows what doors could be opened through this type of networking?

You could be taken on full time. Not all charities rely solely on volunteers, so you might even find that they’re willing to offer you a paid role if you impress them. However, don’t take this as a given since it depends in large part on the funding available to take on paid staff.

Getting into Volunteering

So, you’re interested in becoming a volunteer but not sure where to start?

Useful websites. You can search for volunteer roles and placements on websites like VolunteerMatch and All For Good to find volunteering opportunities in your area that strongly appeal to you.

Contacting organization directly. If there are no volunteer vacancies that fit what you’re looking for, try contacting organizations directly. They may have a role available that they did not publicly advertise and may be interested in hiring you for the role. When I first made contact with the organization that I’m currently volunteering at, I outlined exactly how I felt that I could be of benefit and they were so receptive that they created the position just for me.

Final Thoughts

Volunteer work is looked on favorably by many employers and it can be a good way to get an edge on other applicants by adding this string to your bow – especially with the job market being as competitive as it is at the moment. Having volunteer work on your resume is unlikely to damage your chances of landing a job so if you’ve got some spare time, why not give it a go? Even some of the best, most-accomplished applicants out there may never have given any effort towards volunteer work, and it’s something that can help you stand out.

Have you been a volunteer or are you currently one? Have you found that it’s been beneficial for your career?

(photo credit: Nevada Tumbleweed)

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: