Often times the search for a new career seems like a full time job in itself, so why would volunteering your time be helpful? Alison Doyle at thebalance.com, Mariliza Karrera with careeraddict.com, and self-help site helpguide.org offer compelling reasons why volunteer activity can benefit your career outlook and search process.
- Volunteering is an easy way to explore career fields and interests without long term commitments or an intense career pivot. You may love animals and have an interest in veterinary work, but be unaware of the sometimes messy requirements of the job. Volunteering your time with a local clinic can provide you with valuable perspective that will assist your decision making process.
- Volunteering helps you establish connections within an organization or industry. Consider the previous example: working with the full-time staff of a veterinary clinic provides access to tacit knowledge, potential references, and access to opportunities that might otherwise be closed or unknown. Offering your time and effort helps establish social capital.
- Volunteering provides access to new skills. You can gain firsthand experience with translatable best practices and skills, some of which could be applicable to your current skill set or career.
- Volunteering provides resume continuity. Minimizing gaps in your work history shows potential employers that you have remained engaged in your career pursuits. A volunteer opportunity can be an excellent gap filler that also provides the above mentioned benefits.
- Volunteering helps you stay busy. Sometimes the career search process can be daunting or even disheartening. Rather than wait for an email or phone call from a potential employer, engage your mind with new, enriching tasks that help reduce the stress of the waiting game.
- Volunteering within a career is an excellent way to help others. Legal and medical professionals provide volunteer time in the form of pro-bono work, but you don’t have to be a lawyer or doctor to help others. We all possess knowledge and skills that can help others. Charities, civic organizations, and social services can all use your help, and in the process you can reap both personal and professional benefits.
- Volunteering may be the “foot in the door” that leads to a long term career. There’s no guarantee that a future job in the cards, but you can make a positive impression while making real change at a firm or an organization.
Whether you have a job, are exploring a change in your career arc, or are currently searching, remember that volunteering is more than just giving your time; volunteering is an opportunity to explore, learn, connect, and grow.