5 Ways Volunteering Will Help Your Job Search

Volunteering your time and service has countless benefits. It’s fulfilling to help others and make a positive impact on the world. 

Plus, volunteering during your career break can help you return to the paid workforce. According to a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteering increases your odds of getting a job by 27 percent compared to job seekers who don’t volunteer.

Volunteering is one way of tackling the job search from a different angle and opening up more doors for yourself. Read on to learn about the five ways volunteering can benefit your job search.

1. Rebuild your “muscle memory” 

Your professional skills might feel a bit rusty after taking time off from paid work. But just like the riding a bike analogy, once you learn a skill you never really forget it. If you haven’t ridden a bike or used a skill in a while, it might feel uncomfortable at first, but eventually muscle memory kicks in. Before you know it, you’re feeling more in control and confident. 

If the idea of going back to a paid job has you feeling a bit shaky, volunteering is a low-risk way of going back to a workforce-like environment and taking your skills for a spin. 

2. Gain new skills and experience

Not only does volunteering offer the opportunity to use existing skills, it gives you the chance to gain new skills. Regardless if the work is paid or unpaid, volunteer experience is still experience, and you can highlight these experiences on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile to catch the attention of potential employers. 

These experiences can also be turned into responses to behavioral interview questions. You’ll be able to provide a recent example of how you handled a work-related situation and showcase the skills you grew. 

During your volunteer experience, you may actually surprise yourself by uncovering skills and interests you didn’t know you had.

3. Grow your network

Volunteering creates a pathway for you to meet others and build relationships with people who have similar interests. You’ll likely interact with people who you’d never have met otherwise. And, as you expand your circle, doors will open. 

There’s a saying that goes, “Your network is your net worth.” When you meet more people, they can introduce you to even more people – creating exponential networking opportunities. Your new, expanded network is a great source of information about the job market and specific opportunities.

4. Test the waters

Think “try before you buy.” Volunteering provides an opportunity to experiment and test the waters with minimal investment. For example, some jobs require a certification, which costs time and money. Before fully committing to a new job or career path, try volunteering first. 

Your volunteer experience will serve as a compass. It will reinforce your interest in an organization, job type, or field and continue drawing you in, or it will steer you in a new direction. 

5. Cut the line 

As a career coach and HR professional, I regularly encourage job seekers to diversify their job search. What does this mean? It means approaching the job search from different angles. 

We’ve all been there. You need a job badly, so day after day, you find yourself endlessly applying to job postings and desperately shooting off your resume into what seems like a black hole. After anxiously waiting, you receive a canned rejection email – if that. Over time, the job search can become disheartening and debilitating. 

What if I told you that you could build a “side door” to re-entering the workforce? 

Volunteering can help you create this side door. Even though you are donating your time and services to an organization, in return you have the attention of a potential employer. If a paid employment opportunity arises, you have the chance to be considered for the role before external applicants line up to compete for the same job. Your efforts may also be recognized and lead to the creation of a previously non-existent job. 

Not all volunteer opportunities offer the chance to gain valuable skills and experience, though. In our next article we’ll introduce the concept of “strategic volunteering” and help you find opportunities that are most likely to boost your career prospects and avoid those that won’t be as helpful.


Rosa Andrews is a career mentor, working mom, and military spouse with a background in human resources, recruiting, and career coaching. Equipped with a master’s degree in HR and 15+ years working in people operations and talent management, Rosa is passionate about empowering others to transform into the best version of themselves. Connect with Rosa on LinkedIn.