By Gaelle Blake, Director of Hays Permanent Appointments, UK & Ireland
Most of us have given our time and efforts to a charitable cause in the past by taking up a post in volunteering – whether it was during a gap year, over a festive period or during a career break.
In addition to immense personal growth and value, there are so many ways in which a voluntary post will have also helped your career. Here are some ideas below to help you leverage any voluntary experience for the benefit of your professional life.
Broadening your skillset
First and foremost, volunteering is a great way to broaden your skillset and pick up some new expertise. Any new skills will hold some value for your career, whether they’re specialist skills directly relating to your line of work or personal skills which are valuable in more subtle ways. New skills will also refresh your CV and give your LinkedIn profile an edge.
Although it depends on the nature of your voluntary role, here are some skills you might pick up:
- Communication: Volunteering will likely see you coming into contact with people from all walks of life, which helps build on your ability to tailor your communication to different audiences
- Listening: Listening really is a skill which you’ll need in all aspects of your life – which you might get the chance to develop if you’re having to provide a listening ear in a voluntary role
- Problem solving: You’re often dealing with real-life issues when volunteering, which builds your confidence in tackling serious issues and helps you better strategise when solving problems
- Leadership: As you gain more experience, you’ll find yourself heading up teams and mentoring other volunteers, which goes a long way to strengthening your leadership skills
A purposeful career is more important to professionals today than it ever has been, but it can be challenging to determine what you really find meaningful in the blur of your day-to-day job.
Whether it’s caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, campaigning for environmental causes, assisting the young or supporting the homeless – volunteering provides a unique chance to dedicate yourself exclusively to a purpose. This helps many uncover their personal value systems and find meaning in what they do. There’s no reason why this can’t underpin your entire career even if and when you shift to paid work – once you’ve found what makes you tick, you’ll know which opportunities to go for to make sure this is satisfied.
Alongside fulfilling a hunger for purpose, volunteering gives you the chance to contribute to the greater good and directly improve people’s lives which may also be another ‘ingredient’ which you want to feature throughout your career.
Building your network
Finally, a way in which volunteering can benefit your career which is often overlooked is its ability to expand your network in ways which may not have been available before.
Almost everyone will have volunteered at some point in their lives, so you can be sure to encounter a mixed bag of peers in a voluntary role. While many ‘typical’ paid jobs will see you working alongside likeminded individuals in your industry, volunteering is open to anyone. This diversity is hugely valuable in so many ways, not least to expanding your professional network in a way which aligns with your passion.
It’s worth taking the time to really get to know your fellow volunteers. See what you can learn from their experiences and skills and you never know, you might find a career and life mentor in the process. Connect with your fellow volunteers on LinkedIn and stay in touch as and when people move on. They don’t have to have experience in your industry for you to continually learn from them – in fact, some of the most valuable lessons often apply to our overall careers and indeed our general lives.
Highlight your experience as a volunteer
Hopefully you’re aware of the value that volunteering can have to your overall career – but you also need to convince potential employers when the time for jobhunting comes around. It goes without saying that you should list your experience on your CV and try to highlight what skills you’ve gained which match up to the job you’re applying for. You should also have a think of some pivotal moments during your time volunteering to have up your sleeve when interviewing.
Above all, remember that volunteering is an inherently unique and individual experience, so it’s up to you to draw as many career benefits from it as you can and use it to make you stand out as a professional.
About the author
Gaelle joined Hays in 1999 and in her time with the business she has led dedicated teams providing expert recruitment services for a wide range of sectors and professions, with a particular focus on construction and property. In 2018 she was appointed the Director for Permanent Recruitment, working across Hays UK and Ireland to improve business performance, drive best practice and shape Hays’ value proposition to both clients and candidates.
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