Can you get a promotion, raise or new job because of your volunteer experience?
82% of interviewers prefer applicants with volunteer experience.
This stat from a recent Deloitte study shows that those who donate their time and expertise have an immediate edge with hiring managers. When it comes to volunteering, many of us think of activities that benefit others, getting involved in our communities and even meeting new people. But clearly, volunteering is also a fantastic way to grow your career.
The challenge then becomes finding the right volunteer position for you. Here is a sample of four positions that can use or develop your job skills and help further your career.
1. Social Media Consultant
Every day, more and more companies and organizations are realizing the benefits of being present and active on social media. If you are looking for a job in marketing or public relations, this type of volunteer position will definitely benefit you. It will also help if you already hold a similar job title, but now you are looking to move up into a management position.
If you already spend a fair amount of time on social media for business, then this could be a great opportunity to build your skills and advance your career. Non-profits are looking for help in creating social media strategies, developing policies and guidelines, and increasing their presence on social media. Some need to be taught the basics, such as how to create an organization page or use #hashtags (it’s not just a pound sign), and some need to create a dynamic strategy for generating content and growing their audiences.
This volunteer position is generally short-term, lasting only a few months, and can be anywhere from 2 to 10 hours a week. The work can also be done remotely while consulting, developing recommendations and creating a social media strategy.
As a consultant, your role may also include training staff on the different social media platforms and how to use them effectively to connect with their target audience. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with teams, develop your interpersonal communication, improve your training skills, be creative and enhance your online portfolio.
2. Board Member
Serving on a board of directors can bring you invaluable professional development opportunities, including networking and leadership experience. As a board member, you would provide good governance to a non-profit organization, steward its resources, and ensure that it can effectively and efficiently fulfill its mandate.
Using your strengths and skills to impact the success of the organization, you will ensure that the organization is providing services and programming to the community. In return, you will gain experience in community awareness, decision-making, strategic thinking, conflict resolution, team building and in non-profit sector leadership.
The commitment is usually one evening a month, for a period of two years. Of course, this can vary slightly and boards will often take the summer months off.
As a board member, you will also build your skills in financial management, strategic planning, program evaluation and representing the organization in public. You will also have access to community and business leaders, which could lead to new job leads or networking opportunities that will help further your current career.
3. Canvass Volunteers
Canvass volunteers are the front line ambassadors for a non-profit or charity, and are an essential piece of national public awareness campaigns. It’s more than door-to-door work, as canvass volunteers are also fundraisers, public speakers and community organizers.
Every charity and non-profit requires skilled help to raise money or build awareness for their cause. This type of volunteer position requires someone with people skills, who is relatable, good at managing their time and who can speak on behalf of the organization or charity.
Many people volunteer as canvass volunteers to support an organization that is making a difference, whether through awareness, research or both. This volunteer role also appeals to people who have been personally affected by the cause of the organization.
The time commitment for this type of volunteer position is typically short, usually a month, or for the duration of the campaign.
Volunteers can see the immediate results of their efforts, interact with people in the community, upgrade their interpersonal soft skills and improve their sales skills. As a canvass volunteer you will further develop your public speaking skills, and gain experience in client relations. You will also gain knowledge in problem-solving and will build your community awareness.
4. Youth Group Mentor
In one of the most fulfilling volunteer roles out there, you will have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of youth who are at risk. As a mentor, the goal is to provide a positive recreational and social experience for at-risk youth, which will help expand their choices and opportunities. There are opportunities to volunteer with a group of youth or one-on-one, so the experience and skills required will vary.
As a result of your volunteer efforts, youth will have lower high school dropout rates, better self-confidence, stronger relationships with family and teachers, and an overall improvement in their circumstances.
Most of these volunteer positions will require you to be available on the weekend, either once a week or every other week. Depending on whether you mentor an individual or a group of youths, the commitment may also vary and can include putting in extra time for an outing or special events.
You also benefit from this type of volunteer position – gaining experience in youth development, group management, respect, adaptability and supportive communication. You will improve your supervisory skills, which is a big bonus for people looking to move up in their professional positions and manage a team of people.
As a youth mentor, the experience can also lead to connections in the field of human resources, social services, community development, education, psychology and in various levels of management.
Where do I start?
The first thing to consider when it comes to volunteering are your interests – why are you volunteering and what skills do you want to build or gain?
Then determine how much time you have to donate – and be realistic. Really think about your personal and professional life before you make a volunteer commitment. Once you have determined the why and the when, the how will come easier to you.
Another important consideration is that applying for a volunteer position is very similar to applying for a paid position – you will have to introduce yourself (cover letter and application), meet with the prospective employer (volunteer coordinator) and discuss your suitability for the job. In return, you will get training, support and the opportunity to build your skills for the future.
If you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer in your community visit your local volunteer centre to find out more.
About the Author
Having spent the past 15 years working in the non-profit sector as a communications specialist, Dawn has developed a talent for interpreting what others mean to say and what some want to hear. In her current role at Volunteer Manitoba, she is responsible for increasing awareness of VM’s mission – to encourage and promote volunteerism across the province. Passionate about volunteers and community engagement, she has also managed volunteers for many festival and community events held in Winnipeg, and is especially fond of the volunteers at Jazz Winnipeg Inc. (whom she has been working with since 2004).More Content by Dawn Bourbonnais