5 Ways Volunteering Can Boost Your Career


By Kate Mills

Now that exams are over, you have a summer to look forward to. As you transition into summer, don’t undermine the power of volunteering and how it can benefit your career.

The reality is there are many different ways to find a job, so we all have to be open-minded in our approaches.

Enter Adam Grant, author of Give and Take. In this book he writes about how giving can boost your career. He says the most successful givers are those who rate high in concern for others but also in self-interest.

So with that in mind, here are some great reasons to give:

1. Work experience

Instead of just applying for entry level jobs that ask for experience you don’t have, get it by volunteering! You can get career experience in a variety of fields—from what I am doing in communications at Students Offering Support, to teaching, to IT, to graphic design, to travel and tourism, and even construction if you go on one of our trips!

Be it working with a new computer program, helping to develop a new website, using a second language, or co-ordinating travel arrangements, there are lots of specific skills employers look for that you can develop by volunteering, not to mention soft skills like team work, communication skills, adaptability, time-management, etc.

2. Update your resume

A sure-fire way to have relevant experience on your resume is by volunteering in an area where you want to build your career. Plus, take note that in a survey by TimeBank through Reed Executive, cited by the World Volunteer Web, it showed that 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without.

3. Networking

Volunteering at an organization that does work you want to be involved in, is a natural, non-awkward way of networking with the right people. You meet contacts who have contacts, and you never know who might be the contact to lead you to the job you always wanted.

4. It could lead to a job

In Give and Take, Adam tells the story of George Meyer, one of the writers for The Simpsons that many credit as the ‘creative genius’ of the show.

Before George got his gig with The Simpsons, he self-published a comedy magazine called Army Man just to have variety from his other job. It was a hit, and made it on Rolling Stone magazine’s Hot List of the year’s best in entertainment. Army Man got so many submissions from his friends that he had to turn some of them down. Not being able to bear that, he shut the magazine down after the third issue.

The magazine ended up in the hands of The Simpsons executive director just as the show was getting off the ground and he was looking to hire a writing team. He hired none other than George and some of the contributors to Army Man.

Take-away point: By doing something for free, it led to work on a highly-successful television show for him, and for the people he gave the opportunity to, to contribute to his magazine.

5. Improve your interviews

If you have recent and relevant career experience, you will feel more confident and have more to talk about in your job interviews. Plus, when you’re volunteering with a non-profit organization, you are also working somewhere that actually makes a positive difference in the world, which can’t hurt.

Kate Mills is a Ryerson University journalism graduate, and currently the Communications Director at Students Offering Support

Photo credit: nyealumniadvisor