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This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Volunteering during and after your job search has many professional and personal benefits.
No matter what type of job seeker you are or what kind of jobs you're looking for, volunteering can help improve your resume.
You probably know the selfless reasons for volunteering. The organization you are volunteering for is hiring someone who is dedicated to their cause and willing to give away one of the most precious resources – time – for free.
But here are some ways that volunteering can work for you too.
It helps you to gain work-relevant experience
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Volunteering can help you gain experience with skills that many employers want. For example, nonprofits often need help with accounting, marketing, event planning, and much more.
Volunteering is also a great way to try a new job if you're not sure about moving on to a new career. You may not find out all of the assignments, but it does give you a glimpse into your potential new career.
It will keep you updated
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When you know you want to stay in your current field but are between jobs, volunteering is a great way to keep up with trends and changes in the world of work. You may not be fully aware of certain trends in your industry, but you can keep up with some general skills you will need for your new job.
For example, you may be able to stay up to date on social media trends. Or you can learn new accounting software or spreadsheet tricks. Last but not least, volunteering is a great way to fill up your time and keep your skills from rusting.
It can expand 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 through social media, you may find that those connections cannot help you professionally. Or you're trying to break into a new industry and don't know a single soul.
It can be difficult to regain lost connections and make new ones. Volunteering gives you access to a new group of new contacts who may be able to help you in your old area or start in a brand new area.
Volunteering also helps you make new personal connections. Like-minded people working on the same project or for the same company and cause can have a lot in common. Volunteering could be a way to expand your social circle.
It boosts your resume
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Adding volunteering to your resume is a good move. The 2016 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey surveyed 2,506 professionals in 13 major metropolitan areas in the United States who are "currently employed and have the ability to either directly or indirectly influence the person making the hiring decision." This study found:
- 82% of those surveyed said they were more likely to choose a candidate with experience than a volunteer.
- 85% are willing to overlook other CV mistakes when a candidate is volunteering on a CV.
- 80% of respondents agree that active volunteers find it easier to take on leadership roles.
So how can you maximize the professional benefits of volunteering? The key is to identify your achievements and explain how your knowledge and skills helped you achieve the goals.
Treat a volunteer position the same way you treat a regular position on your resume. Include the name of the organization, a brief description of what it does, position title and dates, and your achievements.
Try to use the words the hiring manager would use. You can put the entries in a separate section titled “Other relevant or volunteer experiences”. If you recently graduated and need to improve your resume, you can include it in your broader "Experience / Career History" section.
It offers personal benefits that impact work
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As you can see, volunteering has many professional benefits that can help improve your job search. And even if you know some personal reasons to volunteer, there are some you may not have considered.
A New York Times article describing the daily activities of unemployed men and women found that the main activity for many was television and movies.
While it is important to recharge, volunteering can help you stay connected and increase your happiness during a stressful time.
A Harvard article suggests that volunteering has both mental and physical benefits. Psychological benefits include reduced depression and loneliness from feeling socially connected, and physical benefits may include lowering blood pressure.
Helping others and giving free of time and energy can be just what it takes to make you feel good mentally and physically as you are looking for a job.
Where to find volunteer opportunities
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If you want to volunteer, the next step is to find a nonprofit to connect with. Fortunately, it is easier than ever to find something that you are passionate about.
For example, on VolunteerMatch.org you can find volunteer opportunities. You can search for both personal and virtual volunteer opportunities and search for specific areas. So look for volunteer opportunities in your professional field.
There is also Idealist.org. There are volunteer and internship opportunities that are posted along with paid job offers. You can search for remote and on-site opportunities and only find the opportunities that match your interests by sorting by cause.
All for Good allows you to search for volunteer opportunities. You can also filter your results to look for causes, family-friendly projects, and remote opportunities.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for online volunteers when in-person volunteering just isn't possible. With the recent move to remote working for most businesses and nonprofits, more places are being established for virtual collaboration. What does this mean for volunteers? Things that used to be difficult to access online may now be instantly available and supported from your home.
Reach out to your preferred nonprofit and ask them if they have anything you can do remotely. If you're not sure where to start, search online for virtual volunteer opportunities.
Find a job after volunteering
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While nothing is guaranteed in life, one more thing to consider is that volunteering can help you get your foot in the door of a company and lead to a job offer.
Showing interest in the employer's mission – and even explicitly stating that you are interested in future job opportunities – can be a great path to a potential job. It is also a networking opportunity.
Whether or not your experience as a volunteer leads to a job, FlexJobs will help you find your next role. Flexible schedules, remote working and freelance appearances are just some of the work flexibility options our jobs offer.
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