Volunteering isn’t just about giving your time and energy to an organization that needs you. Sure, you’re helping out to improve the world, but you can also improve yourself at the same time. Volunteer work can make your resume shine and give you a career boost. Here are five ways to make the most out of your volunteer hours:
1. Follow your passion. Don’t choose an organization on a whim or out of guilt. Before you start donating your time, make sure it’s for a cause that speaks to your heart. That way, you’re more likely to stick with it. Consistently volunteering at one place will look better on your resume than jumping from organization to organization. No matter what you’re interested in, chances are there’s a non-profit out there that’s the perfect fit. (Not sure where to start? Check VolunteerMatch.org and Idealist.org and search by topic.)
2. Develop your skills. Instead of signing up to help out in the simplest way possible (routing people at an event to a different exit door, for example), seek out a volunteer position where you can challenge yourself. This allows you to bring what you already know to the table, and get more experience using those skills. The payoff? You’ll strengthen your resume while also showing potential employers that you’re socially conscious. For example, if you work in public relations, you might offer to build a media kit for a non-profit organization.
3. Try something new. Considering a career change? Then a part-time volunteer gig is the perfect way to try a new job on for size: as you test the waters, you’ll also be earning valuable work experience. If you’ve always wanted to work in social media, for example, ask your favorite non-profit if you can help manage their Twitter or Facebook pages. Volunteering is also a great way to get started if you’re hoping to transition to a job in the non-profit field.
5. Stretch yourself. If you’re hoping for a promotion at work, research the job requirements for the higher-ranking position, and look for the ways in which volunteering can help you build those necessary skills. For example, if you need managerial experience to advance, look for a volunteer position where you’re coordinating other volunteers or heading up a project.
5. Talk to people. Finding time to attend networking events and volunteer can be difficult, so why not do both at the same time? Volunteer at a place that appeals to people in your line of work, and you’ll find yourself side by side with people who share your interests. As you make conversation with the people around you, you’ll naturally find yourself in a networking situation. Those potential work contacts could hook you up with your ideal job—or a great reference—down the line.
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