Volunteering not only offers ways to help your local community but also provides a means to develop your career and build your professional skills. Volunteer work can be important in highlighting your experience and abilities in your CV, especially if you're building up your work experience. Regardless of your professional background and career history, volunteering can be an effective way to show prospective employers your dedication, capabilities and work ethic.
In this article, we discuss why volunteering is important, its benefits and where to showcase your volunteer experience on your CV.
Why is volunteering important?
Volunteer work is a selfless activity where an individual, organisation or group provides services to people in need with no goals for financial or social gain. Often, people may think of volunteering to help charitable organisations achieve their goals or provide support to the unfortunate in their local community. Although these activities are important, volunteering can also provide significant benefits to your career development.
There are several ways you can work as a volunteer in your community. Here are a few places where you can be a volunteer:
- Libraries. A local library sometimes looks for volunteers to contribute to its overall operations. Opportunities to consider include assisting library visitors, participating in weekly reading events and organising bookshelves.
- Homes for the aged. Homes for the aged typically rely on volunteers as a source of learning and entertainment. You could read a book or teach an art class once a week in your local home for the aged elderly home as a way of giving back to the community.
- Home construction organisations. Some non-profit organisations build houses or perform repairs on existing houses for free. Volunteer opportunities could include cleaning or construction jobs.
- Animal shelters. Most animal shelters need volunteers to continue to operate. Volunteer opportunities at animal shelters may include administrative help and dog walking.
- Homeless shelters. Homeless shelters typically have several volunteer opportunities available, including serving or preparing food for the homeless in your area.
Benefits of volunteering for career development
Volunteering can have a significant impact on your career development. From helping your community to showcasing your work ethic on your CV, volunteer work has a range of benefits.
Here are a few reasons why it can be useful to take part in volunteer work:
Volunteering can add experience:
Volunteering gives you the experience to add to your CV, especially if you're just starting your career and are still expanding your professional experience. If you are a fresh graduate or plan to change careers, it can sometimes be hard to get professional experience without being hired for a job. However, volunteering can help you build your work experience in a position or industry and show prospective employers that despite limited or no work history, you have volunteer experience you can apply.
Helps you fill gaps on your CV
Sometimes, when job applicants interview with job gaps in their CVs, companies may choose other applicants who have no or little gaps in their work history. Taking part in volunteer activities during career transitions can provide you with something to list on your CV if you have been out of work for a period of time or just starting to build your work experience.
For instance, if you are a stay-at-home mother, you can volunteer with a non-profit organisation for family services or a community group to develop and maintain your skills.
If you are a student, you can volunteer with an organisation in your field of study. Once you graduate and start your career, recruiters will be impressed to hear about your commitment to growing your skills outside of your studies.
Build and expand your network
Another benefit of taking part in volunteer work is that you may find opportunities for networking with other people to build new professional relationships, discover new job opportunities and develop knowledge about a variety of community organisations that can lead to job creation. Regardless of where you volunteer, you can expand your network to include professionals who may one day be able to help you in your job search.
Increase your confidence
Volunteering not only provides you with an avenue for developing new skills and giving back to your community but can also help boost your confidence level in a professional setting. For instance, volunteering in a job that you're interested in can expose you to the business processes and industry, resulting in improving your skill set. Ultimately, when you use your new skills effectively, you can increase your confidence when approaching professional situations in the future, such as networking events, career fairs or job interviews.
Learn and apply new skills
Taking part in volunteer work can also help you learn new skills, especially if you are changing careers or industries or studying in a certification programme. For instance, if you are transitioning from working as an accountant to working as a professional writer, you can volunteer to create blog posts or email newsletters for a non-profit organisation. This can help you build a work portfolio you can share with future clients and employers.
Before you change careers or enroll in a four-year degree programme, you can use volunteering to determine what it would be like to work in a specific job and the skills you would need to develop to be successful. Participating in volunteer work can be an effective way to determine if you truly enjoy working in a certain role before you put in the effort to change careers.
Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a CV
Demonstrate your fit for open positions
Volunteering often requires you to be honest, hardworking and kind to others. These qualities can make you a compelling option for employers who are looking for a committed employee to integrate within their company's culture. For instance, a potential employer might be interested in your CV because of your work experience in a library where you had the opportunity to improve upon your customer service skills. This can demonstrate your ability to work with the public ethically and professionally and prove you are a hardworking and dedicated person.
Prepare you for a role or career change
Volunteering is one of the best ways to advance in your career. For instance, leadership positions may require prior supervisory or managerial experience, which may be difficult to acquire within your regular job duties at your current employer. However, volunteering in a leadership position can help you develop key skills that you may need to demonstrate your ability to take on a managerial role.
Some other ways to obtain leadership experience can include organising community events, helping to recruit and train new volunteers and serving on a board of directors. For example, you may establish an organisation in your locality for a cause that's important to you, such as keeping your community's streets clean and free of debris and trash. The responsibilities and processes involved with leadership volunteering can be an overall benefit and give you valuable experience in leading, organising and assessing a team.
Where to showcase your volunteer experience on your CV
Figuring out where to put your volunteer work experience can be a bit challenging. Consider the following methods of including volunteer work on your CV:
Include volunteering along with your training or educational background
You can include your volunteer work in the section that describes your educational background or any training you may have attended. Make sure the volunteer work you include is relevant to your career path.
For instance, if your educational background includes studying to become a secondary teacher, you might highlight your volunteer experience in your local high school. This allows potential employers to determine how you used you devoted your independent time to developing or enhancing your knowledge and skill set.
List volunteer work in chronological order with other positions
If you are starting your career, have a noticeable job gap in your work history or have limited work experience, listing your volunteer work along with your work history in chronological order can be an effective way to show how you have spent your time. You can list your responsibilities as a volunteer with a focus on the transferrable skills you can apply to the position.
For example, if you are applying for a sales position, you might include information about your responsibilities while volunteering in a non-profit store, such as included customer services and sales transactions. Ultimately, if you acquired professional skills and used volunteering to grow in your career, you can include your volunteer work in your work history.
Create a separate section for your volunteer work
Sometimes, you may need to consider placing your volunteer work experience at the bottom of your CV. This can help separate it from your educational and professional experience while still highlighting its relevance to the role you are applying for. Also, when you list your volunteer experience as a separate section, it can demonstrate your motivation to apply your time and skills to selfless acts. Recruiters think highly of such candidates, because it shows an appreciation for corporate social responsibility.