Volunteering allows you to gain experience, develop skills, and figure out what types of roles and responsibilities are best for your next move. In a way, you can think of volunteering as a tester job, but one that has the added benefit of helping organizations achieve their mission and vision.
My career in the nonprofit sector began with volunteering. I organized a successful fundraiser for the Canadian Liver Foundation and months later, was encouraged to apply for a job as Regional Coordinator. Leaping into the nonprofit world, my career began—and it wouldn’t have happened without having that initial volunteer experience.
Marsha Doucette, past GTA Regional Coordinator for the Canadian Liver Foundation, speaking at the 2012 Stroll for Liver.
Here are three reasons why volunteering can increase your chances of getting a job.
1. Gain skills and experiences. Through volunteering you can try new things and take a leadership role on areas of interest—in a relatively risk-free environment—possibly discovering skills and interests you were previously unaware of. Organizations will typically adhere to what skills and experiences you are looking to gain, which can set you up for the most success. There are so many different opportunities out there—it’s up to you to select the right fit and start building distinct skilled-advantages over other job-seekers.
2. Develop a professional network. Making purposeful contacts is extremely worthwhile. Through these networks you will find great personal resources of information, support in advancing through your career, alongside elevating your visibility amongst experienced, influence leaders in the community. When you’re volunteering, look to build the right relationships with a variety of individuals. You never know, they might be the connector to a future employer, or better yet, think of you when they’re ready to hire.
3. Boost your resume. Experience is valuable and is often a key characteristic of what employers look for in a valuable candidate. From resume to interview, when asked certain questions, ‘Describe a situation where working with a team allowed you to overcome a challenge’ can be answered with a volunteer experience. While demonstrating skills and gaining unique experiences is one thing, caring for the community with a willingness to learn new things in your own personal time, can be attractive attributes to a prospective employer.
Now, speaking with volunteer managers, we learn time and time again how many others got their start with a charity by volunteering. The organization recognized their impact, and enthusiasm for the cause, and saw there was less risk in hiring as they already knew there would be a great fit.
So if you’re looking to gain new skills, or take a fresh path into the workforce, consider volunteering your time first. After all, it will also let you know what kind of environment you’ll be walking into if things turn into a permanent placement.
Marsha Doucette (@marshadoucette) is the Head of Partnerships at Timecounts, an all-in-one modern volunteer management solution. Prior to joining Timecounts, she worked in the nonprofit space for over seven years; from organizing large-scale fundraising events for The Canadian Liver Foundation and motionball for Special Olympics, to presenting in front of thousands on stage representing Ronald McDonald House Toronto, to securing multi-year partnerships with major corporations at WE. She now connects nonprofits globally with Timecounts, a modern volunteer management solution.