There are lots of fantastic reasons to volunteer. You can help a person or cause, make a difference in your community, build lifelong friendships, and more.
Did you know, however, that volunteer work can have a significant (and positive!) impact on your career and your future? Whether you’re trying to get into college, attempting to land your first post-college job, or looking to move up in the workplace, here are five reasons volunteering is great for career development.
Volunteering Helps You Build Your Network
You’ve probably heard that the working world isn’t just about what you know, it’s about who you know. Acquaintances and friends can connect you to people in your industry, introduce you to new opportunities, give you job leads, speak to your talents, and more.
“The idea is to develop a network of friendly people who share information to help each other,” advises Career Key. “Because many jobs (some would say most) are not advertised, it is essential that you develop friendly relationships with people who can tip you off to job openings — perhaps even introduce you to the person who is doing the hiring.”
Volunteering is an easy way to expand your network. Depending on the project, you’ll meet like-minded individuals — people who you wouldn’t normally encounter at work or in your day-to-day life. These connections can be invaluable if you’re looking to land a new job or switch career paths. Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, you never know when your connections will be able to help you in the future.
It Looks Great on a Resume or Application
When you apply to college or for a job, your resume or application ends up in a stack of hundreds of applicants. With so much competition, what sets you apart?
Turns out, volunteering can give you an edge when it comes to getting the job or getting into college. Hiring managers and college admissions advisors value candidates who engage in volunteer opportunities. "Individuals committed to volunteer work are proving their worth to the community,” says Felicia Zorn from USATestprep. “These service acts demonstrate that they have the desire to improve society, understand the needs of others, and are passionate about building relationships. Colleges and business are looking for applicants who are lifelong learners and productive citizens. They want to continue molding and shaping these young men and women into tomorrow’s leaders.”
Volunteering Helps You Develop New Skills
When you participate in a community-service project, you could learn and develop important skills. For example, if you organize or a fundraiser, you can gain experience in project management. If you help to get the word out about an upcoming event, you gain real-life experience in marketing and social media strategy. These tasks translate into job-related skills and can work in your favor if you lack professional experience. They can also be helpful if you want to transition into a new role.
Even if you’re happy in your current role, you can still reap the skill-boosting benefits of volunteering. Engaging in volunteer work can help you improve your time-management skills, get better at planning and prioritizing tasks, and increase your ability to adapt to new situations and circumstances.
Volunteering Allows You to Discover New Interests and Passions
Volunteering is a great way to try new activities. A positive volunteer experience could uncover interests or passions you never knew you had. If you spend time helping out at a hospital, for example, you may discover a passion for caregiving or an interest in the healthcare field. This could lead to you to pursue a more meaningful career path. This type of self-discovery can be significant if you’re not sure what you want to do professionally, or if you feel stifled or disconnected at work.
Discovering a new passion doesn’t necessarily mean you need to switch career paths, however, it may simply help you realize what you enjoy doing or where you excel, and you can apply this knowledge to your current job or role.
Volunteering Improves Your Disposition
We’re all searching for that elusive work-life balance. Would you be surprised to hear that the activities you engage in outside of work can increase your professional performance and overall job satisfaction?
Here’s how it works: When you volunteer, you’re improving your community or making a difference in people’s lives. This can build your confidence and give you a greater sense of purpose, which resonates in both your personal and professional life.
“Self-confidence goes a long way in furthering your career, and volunteering provides the outlet to improve this valuable trait,” says Sarah Landrum, founder of Punched Clocks. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as it gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction.”
Volunteering helps you develop personally and professionally. So whether you’re applying to college, looking for a job, switching career paths, or looking for ways to improve in your current role, search for volunteer opportunities near you.
How has volunteering helped in your professional life? Let us know in the comments below!
Guest post by Maile Proctor. Maile Proctor is a full-time blogger and content editor. She earned her Bachelor’s in Television Production from Chapman University. When she’s not writing she enjoys hiking; finding new, fun fitness activities; and officiating basketball in Southern California.