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Volunteer Experience May Be the Key To Your Next Job

by Marc Luber

volunteer work

Volunteer experience doesn’t just help the world and soothe your soul but it also broadens your network, builds your skill set and gives you work experience without having to get hired by anyone. Your volunteer work can be a big part of who you are. In fact, new research from LinkedIn shows that 1 out of every 5 hiring managers in the U.S. has hired a candidate because of their volunteer experience!

If I was interviewing you for a job, just like it would be interesting to me if you’re a skydiving juggler in your free time, I’d also be curious to learn that you’re building houses for the less fortunate or saving the endangered albino monkeys. As a recruiter, I’ve always encouraged candidates to list their volunteer work on their resumes and as recently as last week, advised some unemployed 20-somethings to start volunteering.

LinkedIn logo

LinkedIn’s New Volunteer Experience & Causes Field

Volunteering is so important that LinkedIn just added a “Volunteer Experience & Causes” field to their profile pages so that you can share your volunteer work with the world. In their survey of nearly 2000 professionals, 89% said they’d had experience volunteering but only 45% included their volunteer work on their resume. Almost half of the professionals surveyed by LinkedIn said that when they are evaluating candidates for jobs, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience.

Benefits of Doing Volunteer Work

Think about this: you’re 1 of 2 people competing for a job opening and you both bring the same skill sets to the table. However, only one of you can say that you spend your free time at a charity sending gift packages to our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who do you think is going to get the job?

There’s more: Let’s break down the work that it must have taken for that non-profit to send those gift packages to our military overseas. Someone had to do fundraising to pay for what goes into the packages, or make what’s essentially sales calls to different companies, urging them to kick-in free goods for the military. Then there’s the need to coordinate a space for everyone to stuff and mail the packages from, and the need for someone to coordinate and guide the people who are going to volunteer to stuff those packages, as well as the need for someone to coordinate with the military to learn how to get the packages into the right hands. Already we’ve listed the need for leadership skills, sales skills, organization skills, logistics skills – often without even trying or realizing it, you really are growing your skill set by doing volunteer work.

Concern Foundation volunteering

I sit on the board of Concern Foundation for cancer research. Here we're volunteering at the annual fundraiser.

I talk often on this site about how I’m a volunteer board member for Concern Foundation, a cancer research non-profit in Los Angeles. I’m drawn to cancer research because my mom died of cancer 9 years ago. One of the things I’ve done for the cancer charity is bring in some big-name corporate sponsors for our events. I had zero experience with corporate sponsorship before this…but now, even though I’ve never been hired to work at a job doing corporate sponsorship, I can claim to have real-life corporate sponsorship experience. You too can add new skill sets like this by diving into a non-profit and taking leadership over some volunteer work that interests you.

In case I haven’t already sold you on doing volunteer work and letting people know about it, remember that it’s competitive out there these days. Don’t you want to appear to be the extra-driven person by spending your free time giving back to society? Don’t you want to give something back to help your community, whatever community that might be? Whether you’re employed or unemployed, getting volunteer experience is a great way to do all of this. Plus it’s one of the 15 career development topics that will follow you through life! By doing volunteer work, you’ll meet all kinds of new people, grow more interesting as a person and get a better idea of what you like to do and what you’re good at, which will all help you to find a career that fits you. Maybe you’ll even end up considering public service careers!

By volunteering you get to meet people like comedian Fred Willard

Marc Luber and Fred Willard

Action Plan To Do Volunteer Work

1) Think of the causes that interest you. Then do some research to see what organizations are in your area. Here are 2 places you can start: Causes and Volunteer Match.

2) Think about the kind of volunteer work you want to do. Is it fundraising, event planning, coordinating volunteers, running social media campaigns, designing t-shirts…you name it, and an organization can probably benefit from it. You might want to consider aligning the skills you’ll be growing with the skills you’ll need for whatever career paths interest you. For example, if you’re considering sales careers, you might want to get involved in fundraising where you’ll be calling on and meeting with people to sell them on why they should donate their money to the organization for which you’re volunteering.

3) Add the Volunteer Experience & Causes field to your LinkedIn Profile.

4) Add your volunteer work to your resume

5) Talk about your volunteer work to your friends, in your business meetings and in your interviews

What kind of volunteer work do you plan to do? If you have volunteer experience, how has it helped you to grow while helping others?


Establishing A Non-Profit Organization
Non-Profit Management Careers
Making A Career Change To Non-Profit

Habitat For Humanity image courtesy of FirstAmerican