How volunteering can help you find a job and build a great nonprofit career

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Did you know that volunteering can increase your chances of finding a job by 27 percent

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we’re talking about how volunteering can both help your community and help your career. The story below originally appeared here and has been edited.

During this time of year, many people are wondering how to get involved in volunteering, with good reason: Now is the perfect time to commit energy to help others, get involved with something you feel passionate about, and often meet new people.

But volunteering can bring other benefits, too—one being a great boost for your career. Here’s how volunteering can help you thrive.

You expand your personal and professional networks

People already working in your target field are great sources of information about job openings, affinity organizations, and people you should meet. And if you have a good experience volunteering, your supervisor might serve as a reference when you’re applying to jobs.

You learn new and transferable skills

Volunteering will help you develop new job skills as well as apply current skills in new ways. For example, a mid-career professional who has worked in concert promotions could use her marketing skills to help an organization with their fundraising or other mission-based events. A college student accustomed to doing research for school assignments could volunteer to research an issue or demographic for a nonprofit.

For inspiration about what skills you might share and an overview of some organizations’ current needs, peruse our information about volunteering in the United States or abroad, and search volunteer opportunities around the world.

It’s an opportunity for career exploration

Volunteering allows you to try on different organizations, roles, issues, etc., without job-hopping. Of course, volunteering isn’t the same as being on staff, but it can expose you to the work of an organization in a deeper way than becoming a member, following it on Twitter, or even conducting an informational interview with an employee.

Want more inspiration? Read how two people turned their volunteer experiences into full-time jobs.

You build a track record of work for a specific cause

Nonprofits value dedication to their issue area. By turning your values into action, you will demonstrate to your potential employer that you are committed to—and educated about—their issue of concern.

Hiring managers value volunteerism

Having volunteer work on your resume can help you stand out. In our 2012 “Voices From the Sector” surveys of U.S. organizations and job seekers, almost 65 percent of nonprofit hiring managers said they consider volunteer experience to be at least “somewhat important” when selecting candidates. In our 2013 survey, 76 percent of respondents said nonprofit experience (working, volunteering, or interning) is important.

If you’re ready to volunteer, here are a few questions you should ask. Learn more about volunteering and your career in our volunteer info center:

  • What are your personal and professional talents?
  • What skills would you like to apply in new ways? Keep sharp?
  • What skills or knowledge would you like to gain or learn from your volunteer experience?
  • Are you interested in contributing skills related to your career? Or would you prefer to do something entirely different?
  • Who do you want to work with, get to know, learn from?
  • Are there particular roles, careers, or organization types that you’ve been wanting to explore?

How has volunteering helped you in your career or job search? Share your insights below.

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About Author

April Greene was an editor at Idealist.org.

5 Comments

  1. That is not so true for all of us… Maybe that works in USA or european countries but I’ve been volunteering since I was 18 and now I’m 30 without a job and no one is helping me in anyway, to the enterprises it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to save the world, and the 3rd sector pretends that you volunteer forever, is not that easy to get a job when you based all your life in good actions, is not that simple here in the south of the world. I’m sorry for write all this but I’ve been really dissapointed and sometimes I regret leaving everything for a good cause, the world will not always reward you for your good will. I’m not saying that volunteer is a bad thing I’m just saying that you have to be careful and don’t put all your hopes in that.

  2. The first job that I ever officially held actually came from a volunteering position that I had. Volunteer opportunities and internships are amazing ways to meet people and network yourself, and so many individuals tend to take them for granted. I strongly recommend getting involved with as many of these things as you can!

  3. Pingback: How volunteering can help you find a job and build a great nonprofit … | Freelance Jobs

  4. The point I agree with most is the opportunity for career exploration. No one turns away a volunteer. If you are unhappy in your current job, I think volunteering gives you the opportunity to safely look for another job, maybe in an other field, without burning any bridges with your current job.

  5. Pingback: How to land a job at an NGO | Idealist Careers

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