Volunteering Can Boost Your Resume & Your Chances of Getting That Job You Want

By Gabrielle Webster

"What is your passion?" If you are applying for an internship, job, or to university you have probably come up with the perfect answer - but can you prove it? Volunteerism can help. The best answers to interview questions speak to your past experience and allow you to pivot back to that well-crafted resume. Including volunteer experience among your skills allows you to show your passions in action.

It is great to be passionate about history - but it would not be realistic to list your favorite books on the American Revolution in your resume. Conversely, it would be advantageous to add the summer you spent as a Living Historian at Gunston Hall to your resume and LinkedIn. Volunteering is also a great way to build new skills and can fill gaps relevant to your field. If you cannot find an internship in the field you wish to pursue, volunteering with a related cause or organization in the industry can help create connections. Getting actively involved in causes related to your industry allows you to gain contacts and connections that could lead to future internships and jobs.

As you research companies you are interviewing with, look out for causes they care about. Companies of all sizes encourage their employees to give back to the community. It is not unusual for businesses to host retreats with volunteer components, where employees spend the day at food banks or shelters. Do not miss an opportunity to relate on a personal and professional level through shared experiences. If your research came up flat, this could be a great question to ask your recruiter!

Volunteer positions are everywhere, and often more flexible than internships for students balancing busy schedules. While volunteering is no substitute for internships and other work experience, it can certainly give you a leg up competing in the job market. One federal agency tracked over 70,000 jobless persons and found volunteerism gave individuals a 27 percent greater chance of finding a job than those who didn’t, according to Nancy Collamer of Next Avenue. Collamer even suggests that volunteerism can even make you feel better along the stressful search for employment. Giving back your time and skills can increase your confidence, satisfies jobseekers' need to feel productive, and make you feel like you have more time than ever.

[Read more of Next Avenue: "Proof That Volunteering Pays Off for Job Hunters" by Nancy Collamer June 21, 2013]

The recent rise in crowdfunding, social entrepreneurship, and human rights movements has industry leaders wondering: could millennials actually be the most generous generation? While a definitive answer is far off, businesses are already reacting. Top companies are creating philanthropy and volunteer initiatives to keep their under 40 employees engaged and to attract the best talent. Fortune reported last year, giving is more about impact than funds.

[Read more of Fortune: "New Poll Shows Millennials Prefer Companies That Give to Charity" August 11, 2016]

Corporate America is looking to capitalize on our ability to do a lot with a little. Volunteering allows you to gain experience working with limited resources and exercising creative problem solving. Choosing the right organization to volunteer for can be challenging, but here are some recommendations to yield the greatest boost to your career.

1. Ask around. Always start by taking advantage of your connections when looking for a job, internship, or volunteer recommendation. The people closest to you have a sense of your likes and skill set, making them one of your best resources. Ask family, friends, professors, and other associates if they volunteer and have any local favorites. They may also know of recurring events, projects, or runs happening in the community.

2. Choose a cause you care about. Determine if the organization's mission aligns with both your values and career objectives. You will get the most out of an experience when you feel good about the impact you are making. Find an opportunity you will be proud to associate with your personal brand.

3. Find a role that yields the greatest impact for your skills. Once you have vetted their mission, make sure there is a place for you in the organization. Research their volunteer openings to find the right role for you to donate your skills or learn new ones! It is always good to be able to measure your impact, so it may be worthwhile to contact the volunteer coordinator to discuss your goals. Organizations are willing to work with you to find a mutually beneficial partnership. If you are great at graphic design or are a social media guru, they may have a coming campaign where your talents can shine.

4. Be realistic about your time. Now that you found the right role, be careful not to overcommit yourself. Choose an opportunity that fits well into your existing schedule, or make sure you are able to rearrange your responsibilities in a timely fashion. Just like an internship, you are expected to complete objectives and may be held accountable for missing them. It is irresponsible to make commitments that you are unable to keep - do not do a disservice to yourself and a worthy cause.

5. Consider transportation. If you are volunteering locally, make sure you have adequate time and resources to show up. Timeliness is important, you need to have the bandwidth to make it to your volunteer post punctually and prepared. There are also many great opportunities to volunteer abroad through alternative spring break programs, mission trips, and other nonprofit efforts. When pursuing these projects, make sure you have considered the cost of travel. Most programs do not cover the cost of plane tickets, passport, or visa applications. Take to your coordinator about projected costs and daily budgeting for your time abroad.

Read more by our newest contributor, Gabrielle Webster, at www.wholefund.org.

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