Undoubtedly, one of the greatest benefits of volunteerism is the difference you can make in the lives of others. Giving of your time, even just a couple of hours, can do wonders to help a nonprofit organization continue delivering on its mission, providing much-needed services, and improving the community at large.
Volunteering can be extremely beneficial to the volunteer as well. Of course, the most obvious benefit is self-worth. The experience provides a bit more purpose to your life, especially when you care deeply for the cause.
It also has a way of improving job prospects, as volunteer work can help you:
- Develop marketable skills. By now, no one needs to tell you that volunteering is a great way to develop new skills — not to mention hone those skills you already have. But what you may not know is how volunteerism can provide you with the soft skills that many employers now look for in candidates.Helping to organize a fundraiser, for example, can allow you to develop skills like project planning, time management, teamwork, and resource development. Helping to coordinate volunteer activities can further the development of organization, multi-tasking, communication, and problem-solving skills.
- Broaden your professional network. With anywhere from 60% to 80% of jobs being found through personal relationships, networking is still your best option for securing full-time employment. No matter the role or its duties, your participation with the organization is connecting you with other professionals, and one of these professionals may just be able to connect you with an employer looking to fill a job opening.
- Bridge any resume gaps. As recruiters, we can tell you that the first thing that comes to mind when seeing a gap in someone’s resume is, “What were you doing with your time?” Volunteering bridges that gap. It also shows that you’ve stayed active and involved in your professional life, even while looking for a job. In fact, people with volunteer experience are 27 percent more likely to find a job after being out of work than those without.
- Gain insights on other careers. Volunteer work can give you the opportunity to explore different occupations. It also gives you a chance to check out different industries. You get to know the people, understand the job, and experience both the challenges and rewards first hand. If the work sparks your interest, you can always parlay it into a new career in an entirely new industry.
- Illustrate your personal values to employers. Many companies are placing a greater emphasis on social responsibility, partly as a way to attract and retain employees. They now realize that employee fulfillment comes not just from the job itself but a company’s involvement with the community. Over time, this social responsibility becomes a part of company culture. With volunteer work on your resume, it helps show that you’re a cultural fit for the organization.
- Build self-confidence. It’s hard to deny how much fulfillment you can get from volunteering your time. Think about it, you’re making a difference in at least one person’s life when you give of your time. But the experience also helps you feel useful and productive, both of which can go a long way to bolster your confidence — one of the top three traits most companies look for in a new hire.
- Stand out in the job market. While an estimated 89% of professionals have volunteer experience, only 45% include it on their resumes. By highlighting your volunteer work, you’re better able to differentiate yourself from a large pool of candidates. You also help underscore your commitment to the community at large.
Though involvement with a nonprofit organization shouldn’t be “to get ahead,” it does have the added bonus of helping your career — all the while making a meaningful contribution to society. If you approach the experience with the effort of a 9-to-5 job, the return is really a win-win for all involved.
If you’re interested in giving your time, plenty of resources are available to connect you with a volunteer opportunity. For example, both VolunteerMatch and Idealist provide an online tool to match your interests with nonprofits seeking volunteers in your area. You can also use HandsOn Network to search for opportunities by location and by type.