Five Ways Volunteering Experience Can Help Your Job Search

When applying for new positions, you’ll often be competing for an employers’ interest with dozens, or even hundreds, of other resumes. While daunting at first, understanding this can be a strength. You know you need to find a way to stand out and get the attention of the hiring managers, but what are the best ways to achieve that goal?

In addition to our other Resume Must-Haves For 2021, one of the best ways to make your resume pop is to highlight your volunteering experience. Not only is volunteering a great way to help out in your community, but did you know that LinkedIn’s research found that one out of every five hiring managers hired a candidate because of their volunteering experience?

If you’re looking to add that extra pizazz to your resume while doing some extra work you can feel good about, here are five reasons volunteering is valuable to your job search.

1. Volunteering allows you to learn new skills and earn tangible work experience

In your job search, a position may be searching for skills you have limited experience with or haven’t had the opportunity to gain in past positions. Alternatively, you may be a recently-graduated college student or someone entering a new career field in need of industry experience. Volunteering allows you to pick up these skills, and maybe some others you hadn’t considered. For example, being a volunteer at a science museum can not only improve your communication skills but can increase your knowledge on sustainability and green technology.

Help Guide expresses how these concrete skills can be gained and honed, even if you aren’t being paid. “You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.”

2. Volunteering allows you to address resume gaps and can turn them into advantages

No matter the reasons they occur, the truth is that many employers view long or frequent resume gaps as a red flag for a candidate. Volunteering shows that you were engaged during these gaps and not only working to improve your skills but also using your time to help others.

Remember: just because this form of work is unpaid doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. Just as an unpaid internship is a valuable experience-building tool, so too is a less-structured form of volunteer work. Adding volunteering to your resume fills in some of those gaps while showing you used your time wisely.

3. Volunteering is one of the best ways to grow your network

Networking is ultimately the single most priceless tool to enhance both your career search and your overall career development. Mac’s List mentions volunteering as one of the foremost ways to forge relationships for the ‘hidden job market’.

“You don’t need to be a scion of industry, an heiress, or the boss’ son-in-law. You don’t even need to have a particularly strong relationship with prospective hiring managers. Even second- or third-degree connections give you a huge advantage in your job search.” (Mac’s List)

By volunteering, not only will you bump elbows with higher ranking folk in that industry, but you’ll be meeting people with similar passions and goals to you.

If you’re new to a field, this goes double. You’ll be able to get your feet wet and see if this career path or field is right for you, and you’ll be able to ask questions to the correct people. You may not gain a job directly through your volunteer organization, but you’ll gain valuable contacts that can last throughout your career journey.

4. Volunteering allows you to explore and showcase your passions

It’s easy enough to talk about your passions in a cover letter. Anyone can say “I am passionate about higher education” or “I am dedicated to the medical industry.” But volunteer work allows you to ‘put your money where your mouth is.’

A hiring manager will be able to see that you go beyond words when you have documented volunteer experiences. This can give you an edge over equally qualified candidates and land you the position.

Volunteering may even introduce you to new passions. You may take a volunteering opportunity for the above reasons and ultimately fall in love with that field or type of work. Volunteering can even introduce you to career fields you’d never considered in the past!

5. Volunteering shows who you are as a person

Tying into the above point, volunteer experience lets a hiring manager get a better idea of you as a person. Ultimately, volunteering should be done for the right reasons: helping others and being involved in a community. These traits show that you’re a dedicated person willing to put in the extra effort. It can display leadership abilities you may not have been able to showcase in your previous positions.

Volunteering shows you’re looking for more than your next paycheck. You use your time to assist others and grow as a person. Employers want someone they believe will not only do their best work but be invested in the position as well.

Wrap up

Not only is volunteering your time a great way to give back to your community and get more involved in your passions, but it makes you a more attractive professional candidate as well. These five benefits are just a taste of how vital volunteering experience can be. Do you already have volunteer experience and want to learn the best ways to showcase it on your resume? Our friends at Indeed and Zety can show you how!

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