The Career Benefits of Volunteering During Your Job Search
Looking for a new job is a job in and of itself.
You’ve got to weed through job postings, craft the perfect cover letter, and update your resume.
However, one to-do item you should consider adding to your job search checklist is volunteering.
While it may seem like something you don’t have time for, volunteering during and even after your job search has many professional and personal benefits.
Volunteering Benefits You Professionally
You probably know about the selfless reasons to volunteer. But, volunteering can have professional benefits for you, too.
Gain Job-Relevant Experience
It’s a catch-22 for every job seeker. Employers want you to have experience, and won’t hire you without it. But, how are you supposed to get experience if no one will hire you for the job? This is true for both new grads and career changers. Without experience, you likely aren’t getting the job.
Volunteering can help you gain experience in skill sets that many employers want. Project management, sales, marketing, web design, accounting, and writing are all things that nonprofits need help with. Volunteering your time to help nonprofits will expose you to new skills and help you gain the experience you need to get a job.
Volunteering is also a great way for you to test out a new job if you aren’t sure you want to shift to a new career. You may not experience the full range of job duties, but it does give you a sneak peek of your possible new career.
Keeps You Current
If you know you want to stay in your current field, but are between jobs, volunteering is a great way to keep up to date on trends and changes in the work world. You may not be as up to date on specific trends in your industry, but you’ll be able to keep up with some general skills that you’ll need in your new job.
For example, you might be able to stay current with social media trends. Or, you can learn new accounting software or spreadsheet tricks. If nothing else, volunteering is an excellent way for you to fill your time and helps prevent your skill set from getting rusty.
You Can Broaden Your Networks
When you leave a job, you may lose touch with some of your connections. While you can maintain professional contacts via social media, you may find that those connections aren’t able to help you professionally. Or you might be trying to break into a new industry and you don’t know a single soul.
It can be hard to regain lost connections and forge new ones. Volunteering allows you access to a new group of fresh contacts that may be able to help you in your old field or start in a brand-new one.
Volunteering also helps you create new personal connections. Like-minded people working on the same project or for the same company and cause can have a lot in common. Your volunteer gig could be a way to expand your social circle.
Volunteering Benefits You Personally
As you can see, volunteering has a lot of professional benefits that can help enhance your job search. And, even if you know about some of the personal reasons to volunteer, there are a few you may not have considered.
Keeps You Involved
No matter why you aren’t working, the temptation to stay on the couch all day or surf the Internet can be strong. In fact, a New York Times article that profiled the daily activities of unemployed men and women found that the main activity for many was watching television and movies.
While a job search should be your main focus, volunteering instead of binge-watching is a better way to fill in the remaining hours of your day or week. Staying involved in something outside of yourself can be key to increasing your happiness during a time that may be stressful.
It Feels Good
Volunteering is a feel-good activity that can make you happier—and healthier too. A Harvard article notes that there are both mental and physical benefits of volunteering. Mental benefits include decreased depression and loneliness due to feeling socially connected, and physical benefits can include lowered blood pressure.
Helping others and giving freely of your time and energy can be just the thing you need to feel good mentally and physically when you’re looking for a job.
Volunteering Benefits Your Favorite Cause
While you’re gaining professionally and personally, remember that the organization you volunteer for gains something, too. They get someone dedicated to their cause and willing to give away one of their most precious resources—time—for free.
At FlexJobs, our employees have used their flexible schedules to volunteer for their favorite causes by:
- Volunteering at their kids’ schools
- Therapy dog training
- Assisting at an animal shelter
- Promoting a local nonprofit
- Providing Christmas gifts for children in need
- Leading a Girl Scout troop
Where to Find Volunteer Opportunities
If volunteering is something you’d like to do, the next step is to find a nonprofit you connect with. Fortunately, finding a cause you’re passionate about is easier than ever.
For example, you can find volunteer opportunities is VolunteerMatch.org. You can search for both in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities, and you can search by specific areas, so look for volunteer opportunities in your career field.
There’s also Idealist.org. It has volunteer and internship opportunities posted right along with paid job listings. You can search for remote and on-site opportunities and find only the opportunities that match your interests by sorting by causes.
All for Good lets you search volunteer opportunities by location. You can also filter your results to search by cause, family-friendly projects, and remote opportunities.
Adding Volunteer Work to Your Resume
Adding volunteer work to your resume is a good move. The 2016 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey polled 2,506 professionals in 13 major metropolitan areas across the United States “who are currently employed and have the ability to either directly influence hiring or indirectly influence the person making the hiring decision.” That study found:
- 82% of respondents said they are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteering experience.
- 85% are willing to overlook other resume flaws when a candidate includes volunteer work on a resume.
- 80% of survey respondents agree that active volunteers move into leadership roles more easily.
So, how can job maximize the career benefits of volunteering? The key is to identify your accomplishments and explain how your knowledge and skills helped you achieve the goals.
On your resume, treat a volunteer position the same way you would treat a regular position. Include the organization name, a brief description of what it does, position titles and dates, and your accomplishments.
Try to use the words that the hiring manager would use. The entries can be put in a separate section called Other Relevant Experience or Volunteer Experience. If you’re a recent graduate and need to beef up your resume, you can include it in your broader experience/career history section.
Finding a Job After Volunteering
While nothing in life is guaranteed, one more thing to consider is that volunteering may help you get your foot in the door at a company and could result in a job offer. Case in point is Greg, who was featured in a FlexJobs success story. His volunteering with a nonprofit eventually led him to a part-time position with the company.
Acting professionally and doing your best work in a volunteer role can help get you on the radar of a hiring manager. Showing interest in the employer’s mission, and even explicitly stating that you’d be interested in any future job openings can be a great way to a potential job.
Whether your volunteering experience leads to a job or not, FlexJobs is here to help you find your next role. Flexible schedules, remote work, and freelance gigs are just some of the work flexibility options our jobs offer. Check out our listings in over 50 career categories.
Rachel Jay, Brie Reynolds, Jennifer Parris, and Beth Braccio Hering contributed to this article.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on July 23, 2018.
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