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5 reasons volunteering is great for your career
06 May 2016
Corporate social responsibility is a key consideration for companies today. People want to know that they are doing business with ethical and sustainable enterprises, or they simply vote with their wallets and feet. Diversity and inclusion is an important part of the fabric of any workforce, and volunteering experience is no longer seen as just a warm and fuzzy ‘nice to have’.
Many companies run volunteering programs, giving employees the opportunity to take a day or two off with full pay to volunteer. It is a two way street, with volunteering providing experiences and skills that may not necessarily be gained in the normal working environment. Employers are taking volunteering experience seriously, understanding that exposure to different environments and working practices have practical application in the workplace.
Here we look at the benefits of volunteering, how to present it on your CV to appeal to potential employers and where to next if you are interested in starting to volunteer.
The benefits of volunteering
If you are thinking about volunteering you should not only consider what you have to offer, but also how it can benefit you:
1. Try new fields of work
If you are thinking of a career change then volunteering can give you the opportunity to try different occupations that you may not be able to get exposure to in a paid capacity. For example volunteering at the local theatre if you are into the arts, or helping out at your local hospital if you are considering a career in medicine.
2. Learn new skills
Helping with a major fundraiser could give you planning and budgeting skills which would then be applicable for a job in event management, for example. Dealing with different kinds of people will also be beneficial for your interpersonal and relationship building skills, which go a long way in the corporate world.
Volunteering offers the opportunity to develop personal and professional relationships that you would not necessarily have been exposed to otherwise. Pro bono work attracts people from all walks of life. You never know who you will meet and how they could be helpful for your career growth. If you’re not a natural, take a look at our tips.
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4. Stay humble
It’s all too easy to become wrapped up in your own world and begin to take yourself too seriously. Volunteering opens your eyes to other ways of living and the importance of remembering that we are all small cogs in a very big wheel. Volunteering can help you realise how lucky you are and instill a positive attitude which is always a boon when job hunting.
5. Expand your experience
If you are happy in your chosen field and not looking for a career change, volunteering can help to further develop your knowledge and experience. Sitting on a not for profit board, for example, will expand your professional skill set in a setting that you may not have had the chance to experience otherwise.
"When people think of volunteering, they often think of serving soup at a soup kitchen or helping out at a childrens' hospital. There are also thousands of small not-for-profit organisations crying out for help where you can use your skills.
A couple of years ago I helped create the logo and website for the Learning Difference Convention. The event provides much needed support and information to both parents and teachers of children with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. My daughter suffers with severe dyslexia and it's heartbreaking to see her struggle, so the chance to help other kids suffering through the same experience was something that I actively sought out. What I wasn't expecting was the things I learnt while creating their website that I then went onto implement in my full time role."
Richard Rowe, PageGroup Digital Director
Richard Rowe, PageGroup Digital Director
Showcasing volunteer experience on your resume
Make sure that your volunteering experience isn’t hidden away at the end of your resume. List your professional pro bono experience as a job alongside your paid employment. You will have been doing it at the same time and it is no less valid.
Take the expertise you have developed which is relevant to the job you are applying for and include it in the skills section at the top of your resume. Skills gained whilst volunteering can be equally applicable in the corporate world.
Don’t forget to include a paragraph on your volunteer experience in your background summary on your LinkedIn profile.
Hiring managers consider volunteering a valuable advantage when looking at potential employees. It shows you have the enthusiasm, energy and willingness to offer more than just the bare minimum.
How to find new volunteer opportunities
If you’re interested in volunteering there are a few ways to go about getting involved:
- Follow Not for Profit organisations you are interested in on LinkedIn and update your profile to say you are interested in board appointments (if you are senior)
- Check out the Volunteering New Zealand website
- Approach organisations that support causes you care about and enquire about opportunities with them, or similar organisations they can put you in contact with
- The benefits of volunteering include exposure to new fields of work, development of new skills and networking opportunities
- It keeps you humble and helps expand your experiences
- Make sure you showcase your volunteering on your resume and LinkedIn
- Search for new volunteer opportunities through following Not for Profits on LinkedIn and targeting organisations directly.