Job Search Tip of the Week #14 (2019)


The Value of Volunteering to Your Career

Happy National Volunteer Month!

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” With those words, Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie was referring to how with volunteerism we bring happiness onto ourselves. However, it appears that lending a helping hand does well not only for our souls, but also our résumés!

Recent research suggests that giving back can give you an edge in the job market. For example, LinkedIn found that one out of every five U.S. hiring managers has hired a job candidate based on their charity work. Clearly, there’s something alluring about hiring a volunteer!

In another study, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) found that job seekers who volunteered had a 27% better chance of obtaining employment within a year than those who didn’t. How? According to the CNCS study’s authors, one possible reason may be that acquiring knowledge and skills during a volunteering experience can “demonstrate higher levels of capacity, potentially making the volunteer more attractive and productive for employers.”

Looking for volunteer opportunities?

There are many ways you can give back to your community! To find some, visit:

  • Catchafire matches professionals with social good organizations that require their particular skills and fit their cause interests and time availability.
  • VolunteerMatch is a search engine for volunteer opportunities (see the ones available in Boston here), and offers free webinars and resources for pro-bono workers.
  • The Taproot Foundation matches design, marketing, IT, strategic management, and human resources professionals with nonprofits who need their expertise.
  • Sparked is “the world’s first microvolunteering network” where people can donate their talents and services to nonprofits.
  • Idealist is a search engine not only for volunteer opportunities but also nonprofit jobs, internships, and organizations.
  • BoardSource is an online community for those looking to fund, lead, or join the board of a nonprofit. They offer live and web-based training, resources, and publications.
  • LinkedIn for Good is a job board for volunteer and board opportunities.
  • boardnetUSA matches individuals interested in board service with nonprofits looking for new board members.

In fact, whether you’re an active job seeker or a happily employed professional, doing good for others does good for your career in many ways. Volunteering is an opportunity to:

  • Broaden your network. Remember, all contacts have potential. You never know who someone may know!
  • Get a good referral. Particularly if you choose to work for an organization and/or role that’s aligned with your professional goals, you’ll meet people who have backgrounds and career paths similar to yours – and volunteering is a great opportunity to market your skills and services to these people who can provide you with a valuable professional reference, or tell you about openings at their day jobs you may not otherwise hear about. Remember to treat your volunteer gig as if it were a full-time job, and demonstrate professionalism and dedication.
  • Explore new career paths. Ever wondered what it’d be like to work at another organization, or wanted to take on a new role but wasn’t sure whether you’d like it? Volunteering lets you “try before you buy,” aka test drive your career options without job hopping.
  • Add to your professional experience and skill set. According to LinkedIn‘s survey, 41% of employers consider volunteerism just as important as paid work experience. In fact, a volunteer position is a way to develop skills in a “low-risk” environment or gain on-the-job training in areas not provided by your current employer in order to get promoted or hired for a particular position.
  • Highlight your personality and interests. Many companies value social responsibility, so showing that you’re compassionate and committed to philanthropic efforts could be to your benefit!
  • Plug a résumé gap. Unemployment isn’t a time to rest on your laurels! Volunteerism shows that you’re motivated and hardworking, and even though it’s unpaid, it still counts as work experience. So on your résumé, convey that: use your responsibilities as your title (“Web Master” or “JavaScript Tutor,” instead of just “Volunteer”) and mention specific accomplishments (“Taught four teenagers aged 12 to 15 living in underserved communities how to build their own websites in 8 hours.”).
  • Maintain your happiness. A positive mindset is especially important when you’re in a prolonged job search! Staying productive is a great strategy to build resilience.
  • Get a full-time job at a nonprofit you care about. If you do exceptionally well in your volunteership, the organization may consider taking you on full-time if/when they’re in the position to hire.

Remember: Volunteering — whether you’re looking for employment or while working — is beneficial not just for a cause, but also your career! Volunteerism demonstrates to hiring managers your willingness to go beyond what’s expected of you.

Blogging Forward,

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