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How Volunteering Helps Your Job Search

How Volunteering Helps Your Job Search
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Posted in category Job Seekers by

Volunteering is an excellent way to increase your work experience and improve workplace-relevant skills. Whether you’re looking for full-time jobs or part-time jobs, volunteering can show employers that you’re dedicated to improving both yourself and the lives of others.

Should You Volunteer in Your Community?

Volunteering is a win-win activity. You can lend your skills and hard work to others and the members of that community benefit. You provide assistance where it’s needed, which will make you feel great and help you build your workplace skills in the process. Volunteering can increase your happiness and mental well-being while also making you more employable.

How Volunteering Can Help Your Job Search

Volunteering is a great activity for anyone but can be of particular service to certain types of job seekers.

Young Job Seekers:

If you’ve never had a job before, volunteering can help you gain valuable work experience. Job seekers are much more employable if they can show they operate well in a typical workplace environment, are reliable and committed to their work, and have other workplace soft skills like punctuality, initiative, workplace communication skills, and dependability. A regular volunteer position can show employers that you have these skills.

To build these kinds of skills you’ll want to look for a recurring volunteer opportunity, a place where you can volunteer for a set time every week or every two weeks. You might volunteer to help with paperwork, cleaning, or cooking at a local shelter or food bank for a shift once a week for example. In addition to building your work skills, your volunteer supervisor and others you meet through volunteering can also make great references to provide to employers when you have no prior work experience!

Early Career Job Seekers:

Volunteering can be an excellent way for early career job seekers to gain practical experience. After completing your education it can be difficult to locate work without hands-on experience, even with a credential. Maybe you would like to be a graphic designer, for example. You could volunteer for a local business to help them redesign their logo and marketing materials. Volunteering will give you work experience to add to your resume to make you a better job candidate and also help you make connections in the graphic design field that could lead to employment opportunities.

Employment Gaps:

Volunteering is a great way to fill an employment gap on your resume. Whether you were laid off, taking time off from work to care for children or another family member, out of work to heal from a medical issue, traveling for an extended period, or you have been out of work for some other reason, volunteering can be a great stepping-stone to get back to employment. Employment gaps can be a concern to some employers (read more about job searching after an employment gap in this blog post). Volunteering can help show employers that you do still have the skills to succeed in the workforce after an employment gap. There are many soft skills employers want from job candidates, and success at a prior job is one way employers can tell that a job candidate has the soft skills they’re looking for. If you haven’t been employed for a while, showing that you have been successful in a volunteering environment can also show employers you have these soft skills.

Employers are also looking to see if job candidates are continuing to grow their skills, keep up with technology, and build their education. Volunteering can help show employers that you are continuing to invest in yourself, keep up with changing technologies or trends in your field, or add new abilities to your skillset.

If you have been unemployed for an extended period, volunteering can also help you transition back into the workforce and put more recent work experience on your resume. It can help you get back into that work environment, give you confidence in your abilities to successfully complete your job hunt, and give you positive vibes from helping others.

Career Changers:

Volunteer work is also a great way for career changers to transition into a new field. Changing careers can be intimidating and challenging, but very rewarding. Before taking the leap to pursue a credential to qualify for work in a new career field, volunteering can be a way to test out how you like working in that field. You can learn what’s involved in the day-to-day work of that job, discover what you’ll need to learn for you to be successful in that position, and get a jump start on building those skills. When you decide you want to continue pursuing that career and begin to further your formal education in that field, you’ll have a hands-on way to start implementing your new knowledge as you work toward your degree or certification. By the time you are credentialed, you’ll already have a good amount of experience in the field to list on your resume to attract the attention of employers. You’ll also have work references from the volunteer organization as well as connections in the field. The networking you’re able to do while volunteering could lead to your first position in that field.

For example, if you’ve always been passionate about photography and want to explore what a career as a photographer might be like, you could volunteer with a local organization to explore that career pathway. You could volunteer your photography services to a local restaurant to help them revamp the food photographs on their menus. If you’re interested in nature photography, ask your local parks service if they could use someone to take pictures they can use on their website or brochures. If you’re interested in family photography, you can volunteer to take family photos or capture events in the lives of your family and friends. You could also volunteer to help out someone who is already a professional photographer. You'll be able to gain valuable experience from seeing how someone else performs in that role and they'll gain a short-term assistant. Once you’ve tested your options, gained some experience, and decided you want to move ahead with that career field, you can begin to investigate what credentials you might need to be successful and explore any other next steps toward paid work in that field.

Promotion Seekers:

Whether you’re underemployed or near the top of the career ladder, volunteering can help you reach that next step in your career. One of the most important ways employees can make themselves stand out for promotions is by continuing to seek out opportunities to build on the knowledge and skills they already have. Sometimes this takes the form of participating in professional organizations, attending or presenting at conferences, pursuing additional degrees or certificates, taking free online courses to learn new skills or technologies, or finding additional opportunities outside work, like volunteering, where they can learn new skills or learn to use the skills they have in new ways. Having volunteer experience on your resume can help you stand out from the crowd. Volunteer work shows employers you have initiative and are willing to invest in yourself so you have more to give back to the organization you work for.

Find Volunteer Opportunities

When most of us think of volunteering, we think of helping out local organizations in our community. In today’s digital world, however, there are also many online volunteer opportunities. Sometimes volunteering online is the best way to make use of your skills. Maybe you are learning web design skills and can lend those skills to a charity organization you believe in. Perhaps you want to build your marketing experience and can help a non-profit market its business. However you're able to help, volunteering online can help you put your skills to use where they’re needed most, allow you to give back in a huge way, be a great opportunity to build your resume, and allow you to volunteer from home! To locate opportunities to volunteer online or to volunteer in your local community, check out the resources listed below:

  • VolunteerMatch – VolunteerMatch allows you to search and locate volunteer opportunities that might be a good fit for you. You can use their search tool to find volunteer work in your local area or online. You can also filter results by your interests so you can give your time and skills to the causes you’re most passionate about.
  • The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – The CNCS is a U.S. federal agency that runs service programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps and helps connect individuals to organizations looking for volunteers in their communities. Use their search tool to discover where you can volunteer in your area.
  • Catachafire – Catchafire is a great way to locate volunteer experience that will help you build your professional skills. This site matches volunteers with non-profit organizations based on the volunteer’s availability, skills, and cause interests.
  • All for Good – All for Good also offers a volunteer search engine. It pulls in volunteer opportunities listed on several other sites to create a more comprehensive database of volunteer experiences.

Other tips for finding volunteer work:

  • If you’re interested in volunteering in your local community, you may also want to check out the websites for your city and county. Many local governments list volunteer opportunities or local organizations that are looking for volunteers on their websites.
  • You can also simply contact non-profit organizations in your area directly. Think about what services are in your area, like your local museum, cultural center, library, hospital, animal shelter, emergency shelters (think homeless shelters, disaster shelters, domestic violence shelters, or youth shelters), hospice service, long-term care facilities, or non-profit stores to see if they take volunteers.
  • Visit the website of your favorite charity or non-profit organization. Many non-profit and charity organizations list volunteer opportunities on their websites that can be done from home. If you don’t see opportunities listed on their website, try contacting someone at the organization to see if they could use a volunteer with your skills.

Including Volunteer Experience on Your Resume

Knowing how to include volunteer work on your resume is essential. If you want your volunteer activities to benefit your efforts to find a job, you need to make sure employers are aware you have this experience. So where should volunteer experience be listed on your resume? It depends. If your volunteer activities strongly relate to the job you’re applying for, include them in your work experience section (especially if you’re in one of the situations listed above and have little relevant paid experience or an employment gap). Just be sure to indicate in the description for that work that it was a volunteer position. If the volunteer experience does not relate directly to the position you’re applying for, include it in a separate section dedicated specifically to volunteer activities on your resume. Read additional tips for incorporating volunteer experience in your resume.

You can also check out our other posts on job searching tips, locate learning resources to improve your job search skills, find learning materials to brush up on your soft skills, or read more about job searching while unemployed.

Volunteering is an excellent way to increase your work experience and improve workplace-relevant skills. Volunteering can also be a great way to show employers that you are continuing to improve yourself during an employment gap.

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