By Raquel Kasham Daniel

A lot of job seekers overlook the importance of volunteering. Some do not want to work for free when they could be paid for what they already know. Others think the time they will spent volunteering takes away the time they could use job hunting. While others may not even think the skills they have can be useful to a nonprofit organization. Some simply don’t see how volunteering can land them a job.

Volunteering has several benefits, both for the volunteer and for any organization they volunteer for. I have met a lot of people who through volunteering got their first or a new job. One of the evident advantages, and a motivation for people who understand volunteerism is professional development and skill acquisition. When you volunteer, you are able to develop skills and gain work experiences that hiring managers are looking for.
In a recent study, Nzuriaiki found that 75% of employers value volunteering experience on a CV, and further research indicates that volunteering experience makes a candidate 85% more likely to be recruited.

While turning your volunteer role into a paying role is not guaranteed, there are some things that you can do to make the most out of your time as a volunteer and increase your chances of landing a great job in the future.

With that knowledge, here is how to go about it:
• Volunteering can help you hone your skills or learn new skill sets that many employers want.

For example:
– Programme and Project management: organizing events or fund-raising dinners
– Marketing and Sales Skills: contacting people to make donations, recruiting volunteers or managing social media accounts
– Working with or managing a team: so many projects require team work, and some will need a leader to coordinate it.
There are so many skills you can learn through volunteering, the list is virtually endless.

1. Volunteering will make you more confident. This is because with an expanded network, increased knowledge and improved skills, you will be able to present yourself as an experienced candidate during an interview. In addition, the experiences your gain could be talking points during the interview. You can provide more details on the various skills you have learned, and also share how you applied them in a practical setting at work.

2. Your volunteer experience still counts as professional experience despite the fact that you could be working for free. If you’ve been eyeing a specific job role, but do not necessarily have the work experience to apply for the job, volunteering your time in a similar role can put you in a good place because it allows you to gain relevant experience that counts as a professional work experience.

3. As a job seeker, volunteering is also a great way to get your foot in the door at an organization you are interested in working for. Instead of waiting for a vacancy in the organization, you can offer to volunteer your time to with them for free. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to know first-hand when there’s a vacancy and the hiring managers would most likely pick their volunteers over other candidates.

Getting your foot in the door is one thing, making an impression that you’re an ideal candidate when there’s a vacancy and you need to be interviewed for it is another. There are certain strategic steps you need to take to prove yourself.
– Show that you’re committed by resuming on in time, dressing appropriately, and doing your tasks with diligence.
– If you have more time, take on more available tasks. This will not only allow you learn more skills, it will make you a value to the organization. You can also offer to assist staff you are already familiar with, whom you see have a lot on their tables.
– Network by interacting with current employees, develop sound relationships and give them a reason to remember you.
– Take time to study the organization, their culture, values, mission and vision.
– Be patient and enjoy your time while volunteering.

4. Concisely emphasize your skills-based experience on your CV and highlight it on your LinkedIn profile as well. If your volunteering experience is unrelated to career field, add a separate ‘community service experience’ section to your CV. Otherwise, you can include your volunteer work as part of your general work history.

5. Stay connected even after you stop volunteering with the organization, do not just leave. Keep in touch and maintain the social connections and professional contacts made.
Remember to take your volunteer work as seriously as you do any paying job. Be committed and show up when you’re asked.

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