5 Benefits of Volunteering During a Job Search

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This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

Volunteering during and even after your job search has many professional and personal benefits.

Even better, no matter what kind of job seeker you are or the positions you’re looking for, volunteering can help enhance your resume.

You probably know about the selfless reasons to volunteer. The organization you volunteer for gets someone dedicated to their cause and willing to give away one of the most precious resources — time — for free.

But, here are some ways volunteering has professional benefits for you, too.

It helps you gain job-relevant experience

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Volunteering can help you gain experience in skill sets that many employers want. For example, nonprofits frequently need help with accounting, marketing, event planning and much more.

Volunteering is also a great way for you to test out a new job if you aren’t sure you want to shift to a new career. You may not experience the full range of job duties, but it does give you a sneak peek of your possible new career.

It keeps you current

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If you know you want to stay in your current field, but are between jobs, volunteering is a great way to keep up to date on trends and changes in the work world. You may not be as in the know on specific trends in your industry, but you’ll be able to keep up with some general skills that you’ll need in your new job.

For example, you might be able to stay current with social media trends. Or, you can learn new accounting software or spreadsheet tricks. If nothing else, volunteering is an excellent way to fill your time and helps prevent your skillset from getting rusty.

It can broaden your networks

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When you leave a job, you may lose touch with some of your connections. While you can maintain professional contacts via social media, you may find that those connections aren’t able to help you professionally. Or you might be trying to break into a new industry, and you don’t know a single soul.

It can be hard to regain lost connections and forge new ones. Volunteering allows you access to a new group of fresh contacts that may be able to help you in your old field or start in a brand-new one.

Volunteering also helps you create new personal connections. Like-minded people working on the same project or for the same company and cause can have a lot in common. Your volunteer gig could be a way to expand your social circle.

It boosts your resume

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Adding volunteer work to your resume is a good move. The 2016 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey polled 2,506 professionals in 13 major metropolitan areas across the U.S. “who are currently employed and have the ability to either directly influence hiring or indirectly influence the person making the hiring decision.” That study found:

  • 82% of respondents said they are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteering experience.
  • 85% are willing to overlook other resume flaws when a candidate includes volunteer work on a resume.
  • 80% of survey respondents agree that active volunteers move into leadership roles more easily.

So, how can you maximize the career benefits of volunteering? The key is to identify your accomplishments and explain how your knowledge and skills helped you achieve the goals.

On your resume, treat a volunteer position the same way you would a regular position. Include the organization name, a brief description of what it does, position titles and dates, and your accomplishments.

Try to use the words that the hiring manager would use. You can put the entries in a separate section called “Other relevant experience or volunteer experience.” If you’re a recent graduate and need to beef up your resume, you can include it in your broader “Experience/career history” section.

It offers personal benefits that spill over to work

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As you can see, volunteering has a lot of professional benefits that can help enhance your job search. And, even if you know about some personal reasons to volunteer, there are a few you may not have considered.

A New York Times article that profiled the daily activities of unemployed men and women found that the main activity for many was watching television and movies.

While it’s important to recharge, volunteering can help you stay current and increase your happiness during a time that may be stressful.

A Harvard article notes that there are both mental and physical benefits of volunteering. Mental benefits include decreased depression and loneliness due to feeling socially connected, and physical benefits can include lowered blood pressure.

Helping others and giving freely of your time and energy can be just the thing you need to feel good mentally and physically when you’re looking for a job.

Where to find volunteer opportunities

Senior volunteer
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If volunteering is something you’d like to do, the next step is to find a nonprofit you connect with. Fortunately, finding a cause you’re passionate about is easier than ever.

For example, you can find volunteer opportunities at VolunteerMatch.org. You can search for both in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities, and you can search by specific areas, so look for volunteer opportunities in your career field.

There’s also Idealist.org. It has volunteer and internship opportunities posted right along with paid job listings. You can search for remote and on-site opportunities and find only the opportunities that match your interests by sorting by causes.

All for Good lets you search volunteer opportunities by location. You can also filter your results to search by cause, family-friendly projects, and remote opportunities.

Fortunately, there are plenty of online volunteer opportunities for times when volunteering in-person just isn’t possible. With the recent move to remote work for most companies and nonprofit organizations, more places are set up for virtual collaboration. What does this mean for volunteers? Things that might have once been hard to access online may now be readily available and set up for you to help from home.

Consider reaching out to your favorite nonprofit and asking if they have anything you can do remotely. If you’re not sure where to start, look for virtual volunteer opportunities online.

Finding a job after volunteering

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While nothing in life is guaranteed, one more thing to consider is that volunteering may help you get your foot in the door at a company and could result in a job offer.

Showing interest in the employer’s mission — and even explicitly stating that you’d be interested in any future job openings — can be a great way to a potential job. It’s also a networking opportunity.

But whether your volunteering experience leads to a job or not, FlexJobs is here to help you find your next role. Flexible schedules, remote work, and freelance gigs are just some of the work flexibility options our jobs offer.

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