Volunteering is often touted as a great option for graduates looking to gain experience and increase their employability, so why is it consistently overlooked as a tool for career advancement further down the line?
The career boosting benefits are overlooked by employees with only 18% reporting that they believe volunteering could enhance their career opportunities. This is a stark contrast to the 80% of people making hiring decisions who believe that active volunteers move into leadership roles more easily.
In the uncertain economy we currently face, volunteering can be an opportunity to gain relevant skills while also supporting not-for-profit organisations who need our help more than ever before.
Here are the four biggest career benefits of volunteering:
In an interview for Forbes, Gregory Burton, vice president of Marketing & Communications for Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region says ‘Volunteering and networking are essentially the same – the only difference is that volunteers are working on a real-life project, together’.
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share a passion for the same cause. It is a chance to build working relationships with people in your industry on a deeper level than an after-work networking event.
In order to make the most of the networking opportunities that volunteering brings:
- find a cause that you truly care about and are committed to,
- be a true team player; be open minded, willing to learn, and ready to muck in where needed
- be pro-active, introduce yourself to everyone, and ensure you are providing the best support you can in all areas of your role.
Experience working in a different department
If you are considering going for a new job in a department where you have little previous experience, volunteering can be a useful way to get a feel for the role before applying. Often, skilled volunteering roles will include formal training and support. This is a great opportunity to apply your newfound skills in a practical way as you learn.
Volunteering to gain experience is a great ‘try before you buy’ strategy to test out your skills and any challenges you may face in the role before you commit to a totally new department.
Just make sure that you are clear about your experience when communicating with the charity and speak with them about the level of training and support that will be available during your time volunteering.
Strategic experience (trustee role)
One area that is often difficult to gain experience in before you are in a more senior position at work is strategic level decision making and planning. These skills will undoubtedly help you as you climb the ladder at work. One brilliant (and desperately needed) way to gain these strategic skills is by joining the board of a charity as a trustee.
Approximately 50% of charities in the UK have vacancies on their board and many are looking for people with a diverse skill set to join their committees. Even if you have no prior experience of the third sector, the skills and perspective you use every day at work are likely to add huge value to a charity board in need of a new member.
Volunteering as a trustee may be a long–term commitment (many require that you come on board for at least two years) but most boards only meet two to three times a year. This kind of committed, strategic support is invaluable to a not-for-profit organisation and is one of the most meaningful ways you can give back.
If you give it your all and are willing to commit to a long-term position, you will get as much out of this as you put in.
Did you know that 73% of employers would hire a candidate with volunteering experience over one who didn’t have any?
Someone who has volunteered alongside working shows that they have excellent time management skills, the ability to prioritise, and most importantly, a strong social conscience.
In a very competitive marketplace, having volunteering experience will help you to stand out as someone who is pro-active, conscientious, and flexible. And, of course, you will be helping the community as you go!
Sign me up!
If you are sold on the career boosting benefits of volunteering but unsure where to start, check out our blog on ways to find individual volunteering opportunities or get in touch to find out how Social Good Connect can help you and your team make a difference together.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about the benefits of volunteering, please get in touch!