5 Ways Volunteering Can Help You Professionally

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: April 8, 2015

Volunteering Has Many Benefits

Millennials love to volunteer. Why? In short, it makes them happy. But surprisingly, college students and young professionals also lead the pack in volunteerism as a means of developing themselves professionally.

In fact, an employer’s involvement in causes was cited in the 2014 Millennial Impact Report as the third most important factor when determining whether to apply for a job. And a Deloitte study found that Millennials who frequently participated in workplace volunteer activities were more likely to be proud, loyal, and satisfied employees.

Millennials aren’t the only ones who value volunteerism, though. The companies that hire them are starting to recognize the value of workplace volunteering as a means of making a real social difference, and they want to hire employees who have a shared vision.

In fact, many companies are using volunteerism as a way to identify the most desirable job candidates. Besides being noticed by employers, here are a few more reasons why you should consider volunteering regularly.

5. Volunteering Expands Your Network

Volunteerism is all about bringing together people with common interests and concerns. Career-minded young people can establish and expand their networks in a relaxed atmosphere instead of a stiff networking event. Plus, nonprofit staff members make excellent job references, and the experience will bolster your growing résumé.

4. Volunteering Helps with Work/Life Balance

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by career demands and lose sight of work-life balance. Volunteering helps you gain perspective and make a positive impact on your community at the same time.

3. Volunteering Provides Work Experience

Many employers place an emphasis on community involvement, and volunteering shows you seek experiences that provide exposure beyond the norm.

What’s more, because nonprofits are often desperate for help, you’ll be able to build skills and gain experience in areas outside your day job. For example, you may be a project engineer who enjoys photography or video editing, which are skills a nonprofit would appreciate.

2. Volunteering Provides New Perspective

Volunteerism allows you to cross paths with people you wouldn’t associate with in a normal work environment, inviting a shift in perspective that touches the heart. Kyle Graham, student and president of Mizzou Student United Way, started volunteering to give back.

“With all my privileges, I feel it’s important to give back to those who don’t have nearly as much,” said Graham. “I may not have a ton of time during school, but I’m lucky enough to have time between classes at a great college, to get paid at a good job, and to have meals whenever I want. I’m lucky enough to be time-crunched, so the least I can do is give back to those who can’t.”

1. Volunteering Can Open New Doors

I once owned a for-profit consulting business, but after several life-changing volunteer experiences, my perspective on my life and my career shifted. I closed my consulting business and starting working for the United Way — and I’ve never looked back.

Volunteering allows people to discover new things, and sometimes, that passion spills over into a career change.

But How Do You Get Started?

Despite these great benefits, some young people still struggle to get involved simply because they don’t know where to start. Determine what you’re passionate about first. You can research causes and agencies online, but the first step is to decide what’s important to you. This way, you’ll be genuinely motivated to help on a regular basis.

Once you’ve identified an agency with values that align with your own, schedule a meeting with someone on the agency’s leadership team to take a tour, listen to testimonials, and learn more about the agency’s goals. Make it a point to learn about the agency’s biggest challenges and understand where it needs help.

Once you’ve done this, start volunteering and connecting. Nonprofits value volunteers who have relationships with the staff, are familiar with the mission and processes, and can provide consistent support.

As you work to develop both personally and professionally, volunteering can play a vital role in your life. Drawing upon volunteer experiences during a job interview, learning new skills that make you more marketable, or adjusting your career path are just a few of the ways volunteering can positively impact your budding career. That doesn’t even include the added bonus of being able to help others in need.

If you’re not currently volunteering, what’s stopping you?

Negotiating Is Voluntary, But Essential

When you're done volunteering and that's opened a door to a paying job, it'll be time to negotiate salary and benefits.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.