Volunteering: The Secret to Career Growth


The act of volunteering doesn’t need to be an altruistic endeavor.  While we can’t forget that there are many societal benefits to individuals volunteering their time, individuals shouldn’t discount how they can utilize volunteering opportunities to increase their own personal happiness and their own professional success.


Volunteering has many effects on your psychological health and happiness such as decreasing your chance of a premature death by as much as 22 percent. It can also be utilized as a professional development tool that can fast track your journey to professional success. Before you go off to volunteer at a soup kitchen or a dog shelter, you might want to consider if you need the professional boost the right volunteer opportunity can grant you.

If you managed to successfully land your dream job, then by all means get your cuddle on with animals at the local pet shelter. On the other hand if you find yourself in the unenviable situation where you’re too inexperienced to land that dream job, you might want to be a little more thoughtful where and how you volunteer.

Ohio University weighs in on the importance of targeted volunteer experiences when trying to utilize them to enhance applications and resumes in one of their articles. According to the university, “putting in a few hours at the Humane Society probably won’t do the trick. Organizing a fundraising event, however, will probably send your application straight to the acceptance pile.”

In college I was one of those people who made it to the end of their junior year with a laughably bare resume. I hadn’t proactively engaged in clubs and I didn’t work through college. I had to find a volunteer opportunity ASAP.

In a moment of bumbling genius rather than find a soup kitchen to volunteer at, I approached the manager of a local radio station about helping them write grant proposals. They said yes. I had the skills and they were in desperate need of funding.

I spent the next semester of college, searching for relevant grant opportunities and crafting grant applications. That targeted volunteer experience was enough to allow me to land a job within two weeks of seriously beginning to look for employment.

How can you find your own targeted volunteer opportunity? Here are two solid strategies:

Contact Non-Profits and Offer Specialist Skills.

Decide what skill you want to learn or what type of experience you want to build, find a few local non-profits and contact them about potentially utilizing your skills on their behalf. Whether that’s maintaining or modernizing their website, getting them on social media, or crafting grant applications for them, you might find them more than willing to welcome you onboard as another helping hand.

Here’s some tips to get this process started:

  • Determine what types of tasks you would ideally like to implement as you volunteer.
  • Choose three or four non-profits.
  • Determine if your goals and their needs align.
  • Prepare a concrete pitch explaining how you can help them and the value of the suggested task to the non-profit.

Find a Volunteer Opportunity Over the Internet.

Don’t limit yourself to your hometown. The internet and modern technology has increased the numbers of volunteer opportunities available to you. Online volunteering can also be helpful if you don’t have a lot of time to spend volunteering, you don’t have an easy way to commute to a volunteer location, or you live in a remote location.

For example, the Smithsonian accepts volunteers to help transcribe old historical documents. This can be a great opportunity for anyone interested in a career that focuses on transcribing.

To find other volunteer opportunities, you should check out the UNV Online Volunteering Services website. The site allows you to search for volunteer opportunities based on your skills and interest. Or you can check out Volunteer Match.



Volunteering Benefits Everyone

Volunteering does not need to be for purely altruistic purposes. And if you find yourself in the unenviable position of unemployed and underqualified, you might want to utilize targeted volunteering to enhance your resume. You won’t regret it. You can check out more volunteer opportunities here.


Image: Volunteers  Michael Lehet

Samantha Stauf

Samantha Stauf graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in technical writing. In the last year and a half, she has been working in the marketing department at a local start-up

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