How Volunteering Gives You an Edge in the Job Market

Guest post by Miles Maftean.

You’re passionate about a cause. It’s what inspired you to start volunteering.You wanted to be involved, join a community and make an impact.

But did you know volunteering gives you an edge in the job market too?

In fact, volunteers are 27% more likely to land a job than non-volunteers.

Whether you’re looking for your first job or transitioning to a new career, volunteering helps steer your passion into a new role by giving you valuable skills and supercharging your resume. It’s a trend most career coaches and recruiters are advising job-seekers to do. It shows initiative and highlights how you are active in your desired career field—all without pay.

But there’s a catch. Organizations are becoming more aware of job seekers’ strategies. And they don’t want volunteers who are only there to pad their resumes and leave once they find a new job. They want individuals who will support their cause.

How can you ensure you’re not one of those volunteers?

You’re in luck. This guide will show you how to use your volunteer experience strategically to land a full-time gig. You can combine both your passion for a cause with your job hunt if you follow the steps in this guide.

Pick Your Cause Carefully

Why do you volunteer? For many, the answer is simple: they believe in the cause of the organization where they volunteer.

For others, the answer is more complex. Many people volunteer to help further their careers and gain experience. All while still helping a cause.

If that sounds like you, start your search by first thinking of your chosen job field. Then try to find a volunteer position in that area. VolunteerMatch makes it easy to search by both professional skill and cause area, so you’re bound to come across a volunteer opportunity that interests you.

Let’s say you’re an experienced marketer. You want to continue down this career path but are looking to transition to a new role, preferably at an NGO. Start by looking for volunteer work at a nonprofit and put your skills to the test.

Couple It With a Part-Time Gig

The best part about volunteering is, you don’t need to quit your day job.

Let’s say you work 25-30 hours per week doing contracted work or have a part-time gig. Volunteering gives you the ability to add more experience to your resume by working another 10-15 hours per week at a nonprofit.

You’ll still have the stability of a paying job while giving you the opportunity to support a cause you’re dedicated to, try out new skills, learn about a new industry and more.

Sure, it might feel like a second job. If you’re volunteering your marketing skills, you may be tasked with writing blog posts, making PowerPoints, managing social media channels or helping with administrative tasks.

But it provides you with the chance to develop your skills in a different setting, proving how adaptable you are. Or you can use the time to build up other skills, say fundraising, that you otherwise wouldn’t.

Supercharge Your Career Development

Volunteering, especially in pro bono or skills-based positions, is a great way to boost your career development.

Imagine you’re a social media marketer at a for-profit. You manage several social media channels and campaigns. You see a call for marketing volunteers at a local charity on VolunteerMatch and apply to help out.

If you choose to apply, you’ll find that you will continue strengthening your existing skillset but you’ll also build brand new ones! You may help fundraise, manage a blog, create an email campaign or help manage other projects.

As you can see, gaining experience from volunteering supercharges your career development because you’re given the opportunity to build skills you already have and pick up some new ones. And let’s not forget — volunteering also demonstrates leadership, adaptability, initiative, commitment and confidence. All qualities prospective employers are looking for!

Be Earnest and Patient

In some cases, organizations do hire volunteers as paid staff. But if the only reason you’re volunteering there is to get a job, you may want to think again.

If that’s a path you’re interested in, focus on working hard and developing good relationships with staff, clients, board members, volunteers, etc. This route requires a lot of diligence and patience.

Don’t be overzealous and demand a job offer right off the bat. Organizations can only hire when there’s a staffing need and they have the budget. Instead, express an interest in working with the organization full-time and ask a team member you’re close to let you know if there are any openings they think you’d be a fit for.

Build Those Networks

One major benefit of volunteering is being part of a great community, which can help you build your professional networks.

Volunteering is the perfect way to meet new people, including board members, employees and other volunteers, who may be integral to helping you land a new or better job. These contacts are leaders in your community and can be a great source of information on job openings and possible career paths. Imagine, one of them may even serve as your reference when you apply for a new position.

Bolster Your Resume With New Skills

Think about this for a second: 85% of HR specialists are willing to overlook resume flaws when a candidate has volunteer work.

Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re not including volunteer experience on your resume, it’s a huge missed opportunity as a job hunter. Think of all the different resumes a hiring manager sees daily. How can you make yours stand out?

Well, your volunteer work might be the key, especially if you used your professional skills or worked in a similar field. Not sure what counts as resume-worthy volunteer experience? Check out this guide on how to include volunteer experience on your resume.

Final Thoughts

You already know the value you’ve gotten from volunteering — learning new skills, being part of the community, helping a cause you care about, etc.  But now you know how much volunteering gives you an edge on the job market!

This guide showed you how to use your volunteer experience strategically to help you land a full-time job and/or pivot to a new career.

Now’s your time to tell us how volunteering helped you in your job search! Share your experience in the comment section below. 👇


Author Bio: Miles Maftean is a Career Writer who specializes in career growth and change. In his free time, he loves reading American literature and is a taco-making master.

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