Voluntary work has a lot going for it. Not only is it a great chance to give back to the community or support a cause close to your heart, it can improve self esteem and build skills which are as valuable in the paid workforce as they are in the voluntary sector. Here I round up five of the main ways that your voluntary work can help to further your career.
#1 Build your transferrable skills
If you are in a period of unemployment, taking on voluntary work can be a great way to build your skills and experience, as well as keeping busy and giving back to the community. Volunteering when you’re out of the paid workforce is a powerful demonstration of your drive and commitment, and can be appealing to prospective employers.
Even if you are currently employed, volunteering alongside paid work can be a great way to develop new technical and transferrable skills, such as working in and leading a team, and building communication skills. Find an appropriate way to highlight these skills on your CV for the best impact.
#2 Make yourself stand out from the crowd
Your voluntary work might just be your point of difference which sets you apart from the crowd. However, for this to work, you do need to consider whether the groups you have supported might be considered polarising. Specifically religious or political charities, for example, might not appeal to everyone - although this is not a reason not to discuss your voluntary work at all. If you find you have a strong clash of opinion with a prospective employer over a cause or belief you feel strongly about, then knowing that before you accept a position there might be beneficial.
#3 Find some great interview examples
Volunteering can be a useful way of answering interview questions in an interesting and inspiring way. Whatever the work you undertook was, there will surely be some technical skills learned or experiences you have gathered that you could not have done in the course of your usual work - and using these examples in interview can be interesting and make you memorable to the interviewer. This is especially useful if you have been volunteering in a relevant field to the jobs you are looking for, or if changing career paths and looking to show relevant skills outside of your regular work.
#4 Get referees to support your career development
It can be difficult to find sufficient credible referees to support your applications to new roles, especially if you are new to the world of work, or have been with the same company for an extended period. Voluntary work gives you a different source of referees which can help.
#5 Build that network
Finally, voluntary work can be a great way of building your network, whether or not the work is linked to your regular work. You will get to know new people, and can easily build a great physical and virtual network. Don’t be afraid to think a little out of the box about how you could use the connections made through volunteering - you could ask the organisers of your voluntary work to provide you with linked in recommendations, for example, as they will be in a good position to comment on your transferrable skills demonstrated in your voluntary activities.
Whatever your motivation for undertaking voluntary work, and whatever you choose to be involved with, you could be making a contribution both to others, and also to your own career success. Think carefully about how you highlight your voluntary work on your resume to leverage the most from your experience, and it could be this that ensures that your CV really stands out in the right way for an employer.
Image: happy volunteer via Flickr