Can volunteering lead to career opportunities?

Written by

Claudia Rojas


December 9, 2018


Volunteering is an often overlooked experience that can strengthen your resume and make you a strong candidate during job interviews.  Volunteers can hold numerous responsibilities throughout the year and during important events. In many ways, the value of a volunteer position can be equated to the value of an internship experience if you are a recent college graduate or soon-to-graduate student. Hiring managers are interested in seeing volunteer work because it’s a good indicator of a potential employee’s motivation and work ethic.

Entering in a volunteer capacity at most organizations is generally simple, but some fields may require certain knowledge or skills. One common requirement for work with children or in nursing homes is a recent TB test and a background check, for example. Volunteers at a major hospital like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital may have a list of additional requests including consent to a credit check. Some hosting organizations cover or reimburse screenings—read the description and ask questions to find out.

Qualifying for most volunteer positions is also a matter of meeting the age and time requirements. You’ll also be asked interview questions. Be aware that you’ll have some mandatory orientations, trainings, or meetings with a volunteer coordinator. For these reasons, a volunteer role should be taken as seriously as any other professional role and is therefore a relevant experience to seek out.

Here are 4 ways to use a volunteer position to expand your career prospects:

1. Volunteer Experience as a Resume Essential

Volunteering experience is an essential for college students just beginning to apply to jobs. Remember to include volunteer work in your LinkedIn profile, too. Volunteering shows the greatest work ethic of all: you are proving that you are motivated and dedicated, and while you would like to be paid, you work hard for a cause that matters to you. The dedication exhibited in an unpaid capacity can also transfer over to a paid role.

Even after you have gained substantial professional and paid experiences, keep a “Volunteer Experience” or “Community Service” resume sectionfor volunteering. Highlight any projects or events where you played a key role. A typical question for job and internship interviews is “tell me about yourself” and sharing community involvement is among recommended responses.

2. Volunteer Experience as a Game Changer

According to a 2017 survey conducted by Glassdoor, 88% of hiring managers decide to hire a candidate based on whetheror not they’re an “informed candidate.”An informed candidate is defined by someone with experience in the field and aprofound grasp about a company or organization. Get to know teams by being partof them!

If you are trying to break into a field or change fields, volunteering is a great way to develop experience. You can learn new skills and brush up on customer service and time management. Some organizations are on budget constraints that don’t have room for hiring new employees, but budgets can change. You can also champion to become paid by researching into grants or finding new donors for an organization. Additionally, if you’ve lost a job or are struggling to get hired, volunteer work is a way to maintain professional presence and stay connected to a field.

3: Volunteer Experience as Entry into Community

Choose a cause that matters to you and will likely carry out for more than 6 months; again, volunteering is as serious as a job. Of course, you can take on one-time or occasional volunteer roles, but if you hope for a rich volunteer experience, opt for a long-term role. With volunteering, you aren’t pressured to perform well, yet the honest desire to invest in a cause you are passionate about will make you a better volunteer and foster new skills. In this way, you build community as supervisors or colleagues watch you grow in the role.

The more time you spend with the role, the more people you will meet who have similar community interests or causes. Investing your energy into a cause helps cultivate community. It’s this type of close network that you’ll want when it comes to asking for references or discovering job openings.

4: Volunteer Experience as Character Shaper

You’ll learn about yourself in terms of your patience, energy, and empathy levels. Just because you love a cause doesn’t mean the work will come easy. There will be days you’ll really miss a paycheck and question the volunteer role, and these feelings will inform you about what jobs fit your character. The perfect volunteer match will feel healthy. 93% of people in a UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch survey reported mental positivity because of volunteering, and optimism is useful when faced against rejection during a job search.

Is your interest piqued? Reach out to local organizations and nonprofits. Try out VolunteerMatch or Create the Good for an online search. Volunteer work might be what has been missing from your resume or everyday routine.


Written by:  Claudia Rojas

Claudia Rojas is a freelance writer and a poet with a Bachelor’s in English from George Mason University. She is a proud first generation college student. Claudia’s poetry appears in The Acentos Review, Poetry is Dead, and The Bookends Review.

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