November 11, 2008

Tuesday Tips: The Benefits of Volunteering

Did you all see that article I posted yesterday from about how to get a job in the Obama administration?  Whether you are a red voter or a blue one (or none of the above), the salient point of that article still applies: Volunteering and networking are two great ways to get your foot in the door, especially in a hyper- competitive job market.

Since we have talked pretty extensively on here about career networking, I thought I would take a look today at the power of volunteering. Now, you may have been motivated to volunteer by your Save the World ideology, but do not let your altruism diminish the fact that generously donating your time (and talents) can also be a big plus for your career.  Here’s how:

•    Volunteering develops important business skills
•    Volunteering provides countless networking opportunities

According to a the Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, quoted here at, more than three-quarters of workers said that volunteering helped them to network and learn business skills or develop leadership abilities.

Now wait a minute, I thought she said she wasn’t going to talk about networking today?

Well, the truth is that one of the major career benefits of volunteering is the connections you make with people. 

Whether those people are the professionals who you work with in the field or the donors and board members who support the work of your non-profit organization.

These networking connections not only know the field in which you are volunteering, but they also have much broader connections throughout the business, academic and medical communities. In other words, if you are volunteering in an inner city literacy program, but you want to find a job in medical research, don’t assume the connections you make through volunteering won’t be able to help you.  Assume, in fact, the opposite.

When it comes time to look for a job, these connections should be first among the people that you call. If you have impressed them with your adaptability, leadership and commitment, they will undoubtedly be eager to help you find your next (or first) paying job.

Skill Building
Whether you are a high school or college student, a career changer or someone who is out of work altogether, volunteering can be a wonderful way to learn, practice and develop mastery over a variety of important new business skills.  These can include: organizing, planning, communicating, budgeting, fundraising, marketing, researching and many more.

If your resume is particularly thin (say, if you are still in college and have not yet had any significant job experience) or if you have been out of work for a while (either by choice or by layoff), you can use your volunteering to highlight skills or to indicate a continuity of experience.  If you do this, however, keep in mind that you should note, either in your title or in your job description, that your assignment was voluntary.

If you are interested in learning more about how volunteering can help you find your next job, has a series of excellent articles on the topic, including:

Also be sure to check out JobMonkey’s extensive section on Volunteering Abroad, for practical tips about finding placements and preparing for an intensive international experience.

Have you ever had a volunteer job turn into a paying one?  Either at your volunteer placement or through connections you made on site?  If so, please stop by and tell us about it!

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