Volunteering: How Helping Out Helps You Stand Out In the Workplace

Photo credit: www.careways.org.au

Last week was National Volunteer Week, an annual event that, since its inception in 1974, has raised awareness about the  growing role volunteerism plays in strengthening communities. But did you know that it can also help you stand out in a good way in the workplace?

LinkedIn recently shared that 1 million members have added charitable causes to their profiles and pointed out that over 60 percent of those members are Millennials who highlight their volunteer efforts as a part of their professional identity.

Some might argue that they can’t afford to work for free, but here are a few ways in which volunteering can help you land your dream gig:

Helping out helps you stand out: Did you know that one in every five hiring managers in the U.S. say they have selected a candidate because of his or her volunteer work experience? Nowadays, hiring managers are looking for well-rounded candidates and actively seeking those kind of  “do-gooders” — ones who will ultimately represent their company well in the world. Volunteer work offers the ability to showcase your interests, passions  and it’s a great way to polish up your resume and your online profile.

Getting your foot in the door: Early on in her career, Meryl was looking for a position doing PR for either music or the arts. Without the right connections (and before the assistance of social media and sites like LinkedIn), she struggled at first.  That was, until she began volunteering for a fantastic organization called LIFEBEAT,  the music industry’s AIDS organization. One of the ways they raised money was through a series of after-parties for bands/musicians from Aimee Mann to Busta Rhymes, Sonic Youth to Tony Bennett. Working one of those events, she was introduced to a guy who was starting his own music PR firm. Out of that fortuitous meeting came a job offer, which ultimately set her PR career in motion.

Photo credit: http://blsciblogs.baruch.cuny.edu

Honing your skill set: Volunteering provides the perfect opportunity to build or sharpen your skill set and stay connected to the industry in which you’re interested. This is true for soon-to-graduate folks who haven’t been able to score “real world” experience in their field; it’s also a great opportunity for parents who’ve taken time off to care for their families. It allows you to pursue your passions and get experience that make you more marketable. For example: Say you don’t have social media skills. You might try finding a small non-profit that needs help in that department. Getting hands-on experience–like  growing followers to a Facebook page or managing the group’s Twitter account–will then give you concrete examples to share on your LinkedIn profile or during in-person interviews.

Figuring out what kind of company you want to keep: Identifying which companies are supporting social efforts will help you focus your job search–particularly if you’re someone who values volunteering. Often those organizations with strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) approaches also offer a more gratifying place for people to work. The thought: When employees and management feel they are working for a company that has a true conscience, they will likely be more enthusiastic and engaged in their jobs.

It’s clear: In today’s competitive job market, social impact has become a vital point of differentiation for both job seekers and employers. By embracing volunteer work, smart candidates–and companies–are standing out in a good way in the workplace.

Have you added your volunteer experience to your LinkedIn? What else have you done to polish your online profile?  Tell us here, on Facebook and on Twitter.






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