How to Put Volunteering to Work for Your Career

Volunteering and Your CareerVolunteering can be helpful for your job search and career in many ways.

In fact, you help an organization or a worthy cause while you also:

  • Expand your network to include not only the people in the organization you support and the people the organization serves
  • Build your confidence, and remind yourself how good you are at what you do
  • Gain new skills and/or improve the skills you have
  • Build your professional visibility in your field
  • Fill an “employment gap” on your resume if you are unemployed
  • Get out of your home and away from your computer

But how do you put all your volunteer experience to work for your career?

Here’s how…

Demonstrate the High Quality of Your Work

Since you aren’t being paid, it’s easy to feel less committed to the organization and the work. But, that’s a mistake for many reasons.

Think of your volunteering efforts as more than just a way to have something to put in LinkedIn and your resume to take up space. Like your visibility in social media, your volunteering is an example of your work — your quality as an employee, even though you aren’t being paid for your volunteering. In many ways, volunteering is an audition and needs your best efforts. Focus on being the best volunteer you can be!

Choose the Right Fit

If you don’t believe in the cause, you’ll have a difficult time demonstrating enthusiasm for what you have done for them. That will show up in job interviews and in your other public visibility (like your LinkedIn Profile).

If you wouldn’t continue to support the organization after you find a job, don’t support it while you are unemployed.

Keep your Commitments

Don’t make a commitment you can’t keep. Being undependable, even as an unpaid volunteer, will hurt your reputation. You will be seen as untrustworthy. Not good for you.

As inspired and committed as you may be to the mission of the organization, don’t agree to do more things or contribute more hours of work if you know you can’t handle the commitment. You will be hurting the organization and your own reputation.

Be Easy to Work With

Do your work as professionally as possible, but be cooperative with management and other volunteers. Accept management suggestions as you would in a “real” job, and treat your co-workers with the respect you normally have for co-workers at work. Follow the organization’s process and standards. If those standards or processes need improvement, tactfully offer suggestions to make them better. Leave if you feel the organization is too “non-standard” to be acceptable but don’t trash the organization publicly either before or after you leave.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your volunteering experience!

Make Your Volunteering Visible

Describe it accurately on your LinkedIn Profile. If you are employed, add it to the volunteering section of your Profile, describing the organization as well as the job performed. Describe the accomplishments, focused on those that are relevant to your career.

If you are unemployed, include your volunteering experience in the Work Experience section of your profile. When something you have done or learned is relevant to a job you are seeking, include the relevant description in your resume or job application.

Volunteering is good for your heart, brain… and your job search!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at WorkCoachCafe!




Susan-P-Joyce-AuthorAbout the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management since 2012, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.




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