6 proven benefits of Volunteering for your career development

If you have ever wondered what volunteering has to do with paid jobs, the simple explanation is that it counts as part of one’s work experience. Career is mostly defined as “the evolving sequence of a person’s work experiences over time“, where ‘work experiences‘ means paid or unpaid roles through employment (Inkson: Understanding Careers, 2015). The recruitment process for a volunteer role can be as, or even more, rigorous than for any paid job with interviews and background checks, and the expectations towards the quality of work by a volunteer are no less than in a paid job either.

OK, but why exactly is it good for your career development?

Benefits of volunteering

If 2020-2021 have set you back professionally or personally or it made you more aware of the needs of others and you are considering to offer some of your time to support others, here is a list of benefits, in no particular order of importance, leading to personal and professional growth:

1. Boosts your network

Working alongside people with common values raises your chances to make long-lasting positive social connections, leading to opportunities in the future. You may never end up in a paid version of your volunteer role, but it can result in new contacts though which you can secure a paid employment for yourself.

2. Supports mental wellbeing

Positive social interactions with others and appreciation for what you do builds both your self-esteem (‘I am good enough’) and your self-confidence (‘I can do this’). Working in a helping profession can be though but if the focus is on how you contributed to others’ wellbeing or success, it will feel very rewarding.

3. Helps you contribute to the world around you

Doing something meaningful for yourself and others in your community makes you feel more in control in times of adversity or difficulty. Feeling in control is an important element of coping with change, especially, if it is the result of an event negatively impacting you.

4. Gives you more skills

Being exposed to a new role will put you through the learning and practising of new skills. Most typically, your ‘soft skills’ like communication, problem solving, team work, organisational or time management skills can benefit from volunteering, but you may be also exposed to gain completely new (technical) knowledge on something or even a sector or industry. All of these could be referred to in job applications and utilised in other work setting too.

5. Offers the opportunity to test a career path

If you are unsure whether certain roles (e.g. in care or animal welfare) would be suitable for you, test them out as a volunteer before signing up to do them for a living or investing in training.

6. Gives you the opportunity to gain a reference for your CV or next job application

This is especially important if you have little work experience or you want to be able to give a trusted reference outside of your employment. If you have volunteered for the specified minimum length of time (usually 3 months), the organisation you work for will be happy to help you. For example, you can secure a character reference from a senior person or at least a peer in the charity.

If you see these benefits but you are worried that volunteering would mean a commitment you can’t fulfil, speak to a Volunteering Coordinator at a local community directory in your respective area, like WCAVA in Warwickshire. You could discuss the time you can offer and what you are interested in doing and they will be able to give you ideas about positions and organisations. Or you can also consider ‘micro-volunteering’, a different way to gain work experience and developing your skills.