Skills-based volunteering can boost your career prospects

Although this article is written from the perspective of a new graduate, its advice is equally applicable to older people looking for work in this tough employment market.

From giving back to the community to learning new professional skills, GradConnection shares the reasons why you should volunteer – and why a good volunteer role is far more important than just a line on your resume.

As any recent graduate or anyone approaching the end of their university studies knows, the market for graduate jobs is increasingly competitive. In 2019, the ABC reported that the year prior, only 73 per cent of Australian graduates found full-time employment in their field within four months of graduation. Citing research from Universities Australia, the ABC also reported that since the 2008 global financial crisis, the period between graduation and securing long-term employment has lengthened.

Against this backdrop, many graduates are exploring the advantages of volunteering in terms of not only personal development, but helping their resumes and applications stand out. Whether you’re considering working with a small community group or larger not-for-profit organisation, studies have shown that the benefits of volunteering include an increased perception of employability among potential employers.

Here are some of the professional and personal benefits of volunteering:

  1. You’ll develop greater interpersonal skills

Whether you’re joining a small grassroots organisation or an established charity, participating in volunteer work is a great way to sharpen your people skills. Learn how to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life, and develop greater empathy and teamwork skills that will serve you in the early years of your career and beyond.

Beyond teaching you how to empathise with people from different backgrounds, there’s also considerable evidence to suggest that volunteering is good for your health. Volunteer work can make you feel like part of a community and give you a sense of purpose and achievement, all of which can contribute to improved overall mental health. What’s more, all the communication skills you learn in a volunteer job can later be applied in full time employment.

  1. You’ll learn how to be flexible

Other key advantages of volunteer work are the flexibility and resilience it will encourage you to develop. As many charitable and community organisations have a lean staff, they often rely heavily on volunteer contributions to keep things running. In many cases, this will require you to be flexible and quickly adapt to changing deadlines and priorities.

Rather than seeing this as a challenge, think of it as valuable work experience: Even in full-time work, things don’t always go as planned, and the ability to keep a cool head and think on your feet is highly valuable.

  1. You’ll gain experience in a range of roles

In addition to flexibility, the benefits of volunteering extend to exposure to a range of roles. Similar to internships or clerkships that operate on a rotation basis, volunteer work can give you valuable, practical experience in a range of different positions.

For example, you might assist with marketing one day and help plan a fundraising event the next. The close, tight-knit environment of many organisations that benefit from volunteering makes them the perfect environment in which to develop new skill sets. Having a diverse range of skills can ultimately help you find a graduate job in your dream industry, and make you a valuable all-rounder addition to any team.

  1. You’ll make a habit of giving back

Arguably one of the biggest perks of volunteering is the knowledge that you’re giving back and contributing in a meaningful way to the wider community. The benefits of volunteering for the community are clear, wherever you choose to donate your time. Whether you’re working at a community legal centre, soup kitchen, or environmental organisation, volunteer work is a fantastic way to support the less fortunate and those in a difficult stage of their life.

Employers are also keenly aware of the personal benefits of volunteering for the community, and see many of the resulting traits as highly desirable. Research by SEEK Volunteer found that for many prospective employers, applicants with volunteering experience were perceived as motivated, proactive, and socially responsible – and therefore eminently more valuable.

Pro Tip: Don’t overlook the importance of volunteering

For 92 per cent of Australian employers, relevant volunteer experience gives candidates a significant competitive advantage. So what are you waiting for? Now that you know the professional and personal benefits of volunteering, it’s time to get out there and start helping your community.