6 Ways Volunteering Can Boost Your Career

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When's the last time you volunteered? If you can't remember because it's been so long, then you might be doing yourself a disservice. We all know that volunteering makes a difference in the lives of others, but it makes a difference in yours, too. One not-so-obvious benefit? Volunteering can boost your career. Whether you're looking for work or are gainfully employed, here are six ways volunteering could help you flourish in your professional life.

1. It helps you master new skills.

Many volunteer opportunities involve collaborating with others. And any time you work with others, you'll end up developing "soft skills," which are people skills like effective communication, empathy, and the ability to work on a team. Have you spent a lot of your career working alone in front of a computer? Try volunteering to give yourself a chance to work with others. Even if things don't go super smoothly, you can use your volunteer experience as a learning opportunity to see where you can improve in the future.

2. You'll make new connections.

"It's not what you know, but who you know." According to professional staffing and recruiting service provider LaSalle Network, more than 60 percent of all jobs are found by networking. That's why any chance to expand your network is a plus, and there are few better opportunities to get to know influential people in your community than by joining a nonprofit board. But while other volunteer activities may not help you rub elbows with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, meeting others who influence hiring decisions can help you form a web of connections. Who knows? The lady helping you pack food donations could turn into your next great reference or introduction to a hiring manager.

3. It helps fill resume gaps.

Employers aren't typically fond of candidates who look like they spent a lot of time doing nothing. Considering how tough the job market can be, however, resume gaps are sometimes impossible to avoid. Volunteering can be an ideal way to fill them. In fact, people with volunteer experience are 27 percent more likely to find a job after being out of work than those without. Not a bad way to eliminate that potential employment red flag!

4. It strengthens your LinkedIn profile.

A lot of people look for jobs on the professional network LinkedIn. With more than 530 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, LinkedIn has a lot of data on what employers want — and according to the company, volunteer experience makes a difference. 41 percent of LinkedIn hiring managers consider volunteer work to be just as valuable as paid work experience when they evaluate candidates, and 20 percent of hiring managers in the U.S. say they've hired candidates because of their volunteer work experience. And even if you're not looking for work, you can leave a better first impression on anyone who comes across your profile when they see that you've spent some time volunteering.

5. It helps you get back into the swing of things.

Have you been out of the workforce for a while? Re-entering can be tricky if you've been off traveling the world or need to transition back from being a stay-at-home parent. As Marci Alboher of the nonprofit think tank Civic Ventures told Next Avenue, "If you take on a serious volunteer role, you get a chance to experience what's expected of you in today's business climate." Plus, as people work longer and delay retirement, you're likely to end up working alongside people of all ages. Adapting to the styles of older or younger colleagues is a skill you might not pick up with your go-to social circle.

6. It'll boost your self-confidence.

Who doesn't feel better after helping others? When you volunteer, you can help a nonprofit achieve a specific objective like meeting a fundraising goal or implementing a new system. That can boost your confidence — and your professional credentials — because you were instrumental in their success. And confidence is among the top three traits employers say they look for in a new hire. You'll also be more likely to have a positive view of your life and future goals as you feel better about yourself following a great volunteer experience, and a positive attitude can also take you far when you're talking to potential employers.

Put The "U" In "Volunteer"

Ready to kickstart your career and give back? Visit the State Farm Neighborhood of Good® website for help getting started on finding a volunteering opportunity that matches your interests. Search for volunteer work based on what you care about and where you live, and the Neighborhood of Good site will provide a list of relevant opportunities in your area. Who knows? Discovering your next passion might be a few clicks away!

Web Development for a Good Cause with 48in48

Developers teamed up to build websites for 48 nonprofit organizations in 48 hours.

Written by Cody Gough January 30, 2018
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