5 Ways Volunteering Can Help Your Career

Jun 24, 2015

This post is by Sarah Landrum, founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to sharing advice on navigating the work world.

“It’s easy to make a buck. It’s tougher to make a difference.”
     – Tom Brokaw, journalist


Volunteering for a good cause changes lives and doesn’t just benefit the people you’re helping. Beyond the obvious benefits of helping out in the community and making a difference, volunteering can both further your career and improve your life. Everybody wins.

Here’s how volunteering can help boost your career and your personal branding in ways you might not have expected.

1. It’s a Chance to Network

By volunteering, you’ll meet people you otherwise never would have met. The bonds formed between volunteers are strong, and friendships quickly form. These friendships could be a big benefit by expanding your network of contacts. It’s a nice side effect of the work you’ll be doing.

2. You Could Discover Your Passion

Barbara Abbot was out of work for almost a decade when she decided to start working again. Instead of focusing on corporate management again, she volunteered at the San Francisco Food Bank. Her diligent work lead to a full-time position. She never expected that to happen.

“The first day I volunteered here, I never thought I’d end up with a full-time job,” she told Monster.com. “Looking back, though, it seems that was a sensible way to make an impression and get in.”

Abbot’s story isn’t uncommon. There are countless examples of people who have turned their volunteer experience into a satisfying job.

3. Hiring Managers Value Volunteers

Even if your volunteer work is unrelated to your desired job, hiring managers take notice. A LinkedIn survey found 41 percent of hiring managers view volunteer work as equal to a paid job. This is especially beneficial to anyone who has been unemployed but volunteered while searching for a job.

More importantly, potential employees who volunteer have a 27 percent better chance of being hired than people who don’t volunteer, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

There’s a disconnect between applicants and hiring managers based on how they value volunteering. Eighty-one percent of hiring managers feel volunteer experience is valuable, according to the Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey. Despite that, only 46 percent of college students felt volunteering would help them land a job.

It turns out volunteers aren’t sharing their experience in their resumes. Another LinkedIn survey found 89 percent of people volunteered, yet only 45 percent listed it on their resume. Talk about a missed opportunity.

4. You’ll Learn New Skills

Employers also value volunteering efforts because they engage employees and help them build new skills. There are no shortages of nonprofit organizations in any city, and their missions can range from education to advocacy to animals. With many nonprofits short-staffed and lacking resources, there are a number of potential tasks out there.

You could work on the website, track donations using special products or organize large-scale events. If you’re interested in trying anything, local organizations will welcome you on board. Every new skill you pick up is a chance to improve and expand your personal branding. You won’t be paid, but you’ll receive valuable hands-on experience that you can take ownership in.

5. You’ll Grow as a Person

Volunteering makes most people happier in life and improves their mental health. A study found volunteers have a 20 percent lower risk of death than people who don’t volunteer. Being happier in life can have a huge impact in your “real” job and ensure you don’t get burned out.

Your disposition and energy levels will improve, while the risk of burnout decreases. Happiness makes the day-to-day work more enjoyable.

Self-confidence goes a long way in furthering your career, and volunteering provides the outlet to improve this valuable trait. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as it gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Make Volunteering Work

The most important thing when choosing how and where to volunteer is to find something you’re passionate about. Keep an eye on Facebook and check with your friends about any volunteering opportunities. Sites like AllforGood.org and Idealist.org can also lead you to some promising volunteering options. When you find something you enjoy doing, all the above benefits will come to fruition.

Now go out there and find what you love.

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog.