5 career-boosting reasons you should volunteer (in addition to being a good person)

Author Kat Boogaard for The Muse

You put a lot into your job hunt. You tweak your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, research companies, and brush up on your interview skills as needed. But, what if I told you that you’re missing something big? Something that 76% of career advisers say will make you way more likely to actually land the job.

Well, you’re probably wondering what this magical secret for success is, aren’t you? One word: volunteering.

Now, before you roll your eyes and dismiss me as just another cheesy do-gooder who’s trying to motivate you to get off your butt and make a difference in the world (even though, well, I really think you should), hear me out. This is more than just your opportunity to do something great for your community — it can also have a major impact on your job search and professional reputation.

Are you still rolling your eyes at me? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Here are five benefits that volunteering can have on your career.

1. It looks good on your resume

Let’s start with the most obvious one first. If there’s one point that you can’t refute, it’s that volunteer work looks great on your resume. After all, when’s the last time you heard someone complain about a person being too helpful and community-minded? Probably never.

I’m sure that the skills listed on your resume are nothing short of impressive. But, when you’re willing to use those competencies to help with a deserving cause — even when there’s really nothing in it for you? That makes you look not only qualified, but conscientious.

2. It presents an opportunity to meet new people

No, networking doesn’t just need to be done on LinkedIn or at a formal networking event. And, it definitely doesn’t need to be forced, uncomfortable, and filled with awkward pauses. So, this is where volunteering comes in. It’s an easy and completely natural way to meet some new connections in your area.

Generally, volunteer opportunities have a pretty friendly, low-pressure environment. This means that you can have genuine, engaging conversations with people who share your interests — without that awkward air of expectations. Chances are, you’ll make more meaningful connections doing this than you ever have around the appetizer table at a networking event.

3. It helps you determine your career goals

Donating your time to volunteer is also a great way to gather information and find out a little bit more about what exactly you’re looking for in regards to your career. Perhaps you’ve always worked for a large company and are curious about what life is like with a smaller nonprofit. Or, maybe you’re itching to find out a little bit more about what it’s like to work in a startup environment.

Beyond company size, volunteering is also an effective way to discover other important tidbits about how you function. Do you like working independently, or as part of a team? Do you enjoy getting your hands dirty, or do you prefer to do the coordination and administrative tasks? Does working with a certain type of organization make you feel especially inspired and fulfilled?

Volunteering presents a non-threatening opportunity for you to figure all of that stuff out. And, that information is undoubtedly valuable when determining your next career move.

4. It allows you to develop and refine new skills

You’ve mastered your current position. And, while it’s great to feel confident and secure in your job, that doesn’t mean you want to be completely done trying and experiencing new things.

When you volunteer, you can try your hand at tons of different skills and challenges, without any threat to your reputation or current job standing. Whether you’ve always wanted to dip your toes into the world of coding or you’ve been meaning to learn a little bit more about marketing, you should have no trouble finding a volunteer opportunity that allows you to do so.

Plus, I don’t need to tell you that volunteering is also an effective way to polish your teamwork skills — which is a quality that virtually every employer looks for!

5. It Makes you more confident

An expanded network. Increased knowledge. Improved skills. They all help you to present yourself as a more impressive and well-rounded candidate. And, strolling into an interview feeling qualified and competent? Well, it’s a pretty nice boost to your confidence.

Plus, your experiences also give you a few different talking points to answer some of those common interview questions. Not only can you provide details on your various skills, but you can also share how you applied them in a real-world setting while simultaneously benefitting your community — which makes you look even more amazing.

We all know that approaching an interview with confidence is never a bad thing. Plus, your self-assuredness just gets you one step closer to your dream job.

Yes, volunteering is a great and powerful thing. Not only does it get you off the couch in order to do something positive with your time, but it can also have a pretty huge impact on your career and job search. So, keep these benefits in mind and get out there and do something! You won’t regret it.

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