Volunteer Opportunities: Good for Your Soul, Great for Your Career

Volunteering is so much more than just giving your time to an organization that needs extra help. Volunteer opportunities are a way to better yourself and gain interpersonal skills that can be applied throughout your life. Perhaps one of the most surprising effects of volunteering is its professional benefits.

Besides building your resume, volunteering provides valuable exposure to different lines of work and the chance to enhance professional skills. What’s more, a LinkedIn Study revealed that 41 percent of hiring professionals value volunteering as much as they value paid work experience. Here are five ways to make the most of your volunteer experience while harnessing its professional advantages:

1. Follow your passion. Before you start donating your time, make sure it’s for a cause that speaks to your heart. Don’t choose an organization on a whim or out of guilt. Passion for a cause will make you excited to volunteer and more likely to stick with it. Consistently volunteering at one place will look better on your resume than jumping from organization to organization. No matter what you’re interested in, chances are there’s a non-profit out there that’s the perfect fit. To find reliable volunteer opportunities check websites VolunteerMatch.org and AllForGood.org to see what’s right for you.

2. Develop your skills. Instead of signing up to help out in the simplest way possible (routing people at an event to a different exit door, for example), seek out a volunteer position where you can challenge yourself. This allows you to bring what you already know to the table, and get more experience using those skills. The payoff? You’ll strengthen your resume while also showing potential employers that you’re socially conscious. For example, if you work in public relations, you might offer to build a media kit for a non-profit organization.

3. Try something new. Considering a career change? Then a part-time volunteer gig is the perfect way to try a new job on for size. It will allow you to get exposure to your desired position while earning valuable work experience. If you’ve always wanted to work in social media, for example, ask your favorite non-profit if you can help manage their Twitter or Facebook pages. Volunteering is also a great way to get started if you’re hoping to transition to a job in the non-profit field.

4. Stretch yourself. If you’re hoping for a promotion at work, research the job requirements for the higher-ranking position, and look for the ways in which volunteering can help you build those necessary skills. For example, if you need managerial experience to advance, look for a volunteer position where you’re coordinating other volunteers or heading up a project.

5. Talk to people. Finding time to attend networking events and volunteer can be difficult, so why not do both at the same time? Volunteer at a place that appeals to people in your line of work, and you’ll find yourself side by side with people who share your interests. As you make conversation with fellow volunteers, you’ll naturally find yourself with a networking opportunity. These potential work contacts could hook you up with your ideal job or a great reference down the line.

Looking for more unique volunteer opportunities? See our article about fun and out of the box options here.