There are a lot of obvious benefits to volunteering for your favorite charity -- a sense of accomplishment, giving back to others, gaining perspective, and meeting new people. You can also find business benefits, and ways your efforts can help land you your dream job.
Develop New Skills
Volunteering can be a positive way to get training in areas your current or past jobs didn't provide. If you need some additional experience for a particular job or promotion, there are many options. For example:
- Project management -- organizing events or fundraising efforts
- Sales skills -- contacting people for donations or recruiting volunteers
- Managing a team -- many projects require a group effort, and a leader to coordinate it
Meet New Networking Contacts
You never know who you'll meet doing charity work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42.8% of all volunteers in 2009 had a bachelor's degree or higher, while the U.S. Census 2007 put the national average of degree holders at 25.6%. So your chances of meeting professionals in the volunteer pool are good. If you choose a volunteer role related to your target job, you might run into people with similar interests or that have jobs similar to the one you want.
Impress Employers With Your Ambition
Many companies have a strong social responsibility core, and showing your charitable side displays a good cultural fit.
Tony Blake, staffing director at DaVita, a Fortune 500 kidney dialysis provider, notes that candidates who volunteer stand out in a positive way. "As our CEO Kent Thiry says, 'We're a community first and a corporation second.' We value the passion and involvement with community. It adds depth to a candidate's resume and experience, and it gets noticed."
Fill in Employment Gaps, Add Experience
Volunteer experience is also professional experience. List the organization and dates, and instead of using the title "volunteer," use your responsibilities as a title -- "project coordinator" or "instructor." Mention your accomplishments, results, or awards like any other job, without being misleading.
Using your time to gain new skills and help your community -- either while looking for employment or while working -- highlights your willingness to jump in, learn new things, and do more.
Get That Extra Spring in Your Step
Giving back can be an energizing boost to your self-worth and confidence. Volunteers are the backbone of any nonprofit. By helping others, you'll get that fulfilling "I made the world a little better" feeling in return.
"Without our 14,000 volunteers putting in 45,000 hours of service each year, we could only serve a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million meals we serve a year," says Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. "There are opportunities to mentor, tutor, plan events and activities, work in the back office, and multiple other options. Volunteers really do impact peoples' lives."