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Volunteer your time, gain a better career

Sarah Sipek, CareerBuilder writer

It’s better to give than to receive. Volunteering your time to a worthy cause gives you the immediate satisfaction of making a difference in someone’s life. But in the long run, the act of giving can also improve your career prospects.

While it may seem counter intuitive that working for free will help you earn more money, employers recognize the professional and personal benefits their employees experience by volunteering. From learning new skills to enhancing your creativity for your regular nine-to-five job, volunteering can bolster your career in more ways that you’d think.

It expands your network.

Networking is an essential part of advancing your career. In today’s job market, it’s not enough to produce high-quality work. You need to build relationships with people who may be able to pass your resume along to the right person someday.

Volunteering offers the opportunity to meet people you otherwise might never have met. Plus, it’s easier to chat and get to know people in a low-pressure situation where the focus is doing good for others than it is in formal networking events. The friendships you form volunteering ultimately help expand your network of contacts.

It helps you develop new skills and practice your old ones.

Heavy workloads don’t always leave time for developing your skills during standard business hours. Volunteering offers the opportunity to try something new—whether it’s coding a website or practicing your conversational Spanish. The organization you’re volunteering for gains a translator and you gain a valuable hands-on experience to put on your resume.

This is also helpful if you’re looking to change careers. If you want to leave the engineering field and jump into public relations, it’s better to test the waters by volunteering to write marketing copy for a local nonprofit’s fundraiser than it is to quit your job without knowing if PR is really the right career path for you.

It fills in resume gaps.

If you’re currently unemployed and looking for work, you can bet that a hiring manager will want to know what you’ve been doing to keep busy in between jobs. Volunteering is the perfect answer. It shows that you’re motivated and hardworking, even if you’re not being paid for your efforts.

And it’ll pay off. The Corporation for National and Community Service—a federal agency that promotes volunteerism—found that volunteering while unemployed improves your chances of landing a full-time job by 27 percent.

It boosts your creativity.

Studies have shown that diversifying your daily experiences can boost your brainpower. If you feel sluggish at work and lack inspiration, volunteering can act as the diversion necessary to spark your creativity and help you get back on track.

After you start volunteering, learn how to talk to your boss about the transferable skills you developed. 

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