Volunteering helps the cause, and it can help you, too

One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served. –Gordon B. Hinckley

Crystal donating her time to a new community engagement group in her hometown.
Crystal donating her time to a new community engagement group in her hometown.

Recent research confirms the personal benefits of volunteering and many public and private schools are now including community service in graduation requirements. Volunteering time and talent creates connection to a community and delivers positive reinforcement to the volunteer as well as valuable outcomes for the organization or cause. Volunteering can also be a part of thoughtful career development, in turn exposing the volunteer to new skills, industries or places.

Resume Builder

Early in a career, or at a time of contemplating career change, volunteering is an excellent way to gain inside knowledge of a new industry, occupation or sector. Some private businesses and most non-profits will welcome volunteers for limited assignments or ongoing commitments. The volunteer will gain contacts and insights in the company and industry which can open doors for potential employment.

Be sure to include volunteer activities and accomplishments on a resume since these may be opportunities for leadership and concrete accomplishments.  According to research by LinkedIn,  41% of employers consider volunteer work to be as important as paid work.  Go ahead, update your LinkedIn profile!

New Skills and Challenges

Many volunteer assignments offer opportunities to expand your network. Business associations and civic clubs may be a great place to start making connections in a new community or job role. Honing a new skill in a non-profit environment can be a great strategy if your paying job does not offer that chance. Helping a non-profit with finance, public relations or fundraising exposes you to these specialties in a supportive environment and can give you the foundation to steer your career or job search in this direction.

The most common volunteer activities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, is ‘preparing, distributing and serving food’, followed by ‘tutoring and teaching’, then fundraising, then ‘engaging in general labor’. While these may not be resume boosters, Fortune magazine says that job candidates with volunteer work experience make better team players.

National Trends

You may not be volunteering yet, since nationally only about 25% of those 16 or older reported volunteering in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women are more likely to volunteer than men are, at 28% and 22% respectively. The amount of free time you have may not be a factor in volunteering, since those who are employed volunteer at a higher rate – 27% – than those who are unemployed – 23%.  And people with children age 18 and under in the home volunteer more often than those without children – 31% vs. 22%. You can read some more analysis and see detailed tables from the BLS here.


So if you are already volunteering, consider how your activities and accomplishments can stretch – or reinforce – your resume. And if you are not volunteering yet – look for opportunities to share your talents with your community or a cause you are interested in. Do not assume you must contribute only expert-level work and look for chances to hone new skills and take on challenges that you can apply to your career or to a job search. And, if your day-to-day does not seem to hold any extra time to pursue your volunteer goals, the New York Times has spotted a trend of the “Volunteering Vacation”!

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