The holiday season is quickly approaching and many of us are looking forward to food, friends, and family- all things in which to be thankful! However, Thanksgiving is also a time for giving back; whether contributing canned good to a local food back, dropping a few dollars in the Salvation Army buckets, or donating your time, there are plenty of organizations looking for help. Volunteering is an excellent way to get involved in your community and contribute to causes close to your heart, but it also builds highly-sought after traits that employers are looking for.
In fact, according to Fortune, 82% of employers prefer applicants with volunteer experience, but the reality is only 32% of those applying mentioned volunteer work in interviews or on their resume. Give employers what they want and share the ins and outs of your charitable activity to help achieve your career goals. With this is mind, take a minute to review your volunteer experiences and see if any of the following hard-earned traits can be added to your resume or tapped into for your next interview; you might be surprised how far a charitable act could take you!
Skill 1: Leadership
Volunteering can take you out of your comfort zone to introduce you to new environments, perspectives, and objectives. Moreover, it is an opportunity to grow and develop, but in business as well as volunteering, we often find the most personal growth through leadership. Leadership via a volunteer positions is an ideal chance to advance your career. Employers understand the time and commitment required to excel in a leadership role and will count these instances in your professional favor. Don’t be afraid to list these opportunities on your resumes and make an effort to speak to them in an interview. Even if you haven’t held professional leadership positions, draw upon your volunteer experience – it shows you have the capacity and acumen to effectively manage multiple roles and priorities.
Skill 2: Team Building
Much like the office, working towards an organization’s goals can bring together a diverse group of individuals and managing such a group can be challenging. Nevertheless, Volunteer teams come with their own unique trials - a lack of peer motivation and urgency, drop-off in productivity, and even trouble with volunteer follow through can all lead to lack to team unity. Take advantage (and control) of these unfortunate productivity-killers and rally your team to work harder, stay on track, and conclude with an amazing outcome.
Cite team building as a skill on your resume and provide a targeted example of how you brought your team together to finish a task, project, or event. For an added bonus, talk about what you did to bridge group differences or how you played to each members’ strengths to meet specific means.
Skill 3: Project Management Skills
Fundraising and informational events are an integral part of furthering an organization’s cause. Thanks to expert project management on the part of the organization’s leadership as well as its volunteers, these events are often beautifully executed despite meager resources and budgets. If you are in the position to speak to such a project, do it. Project management on a large scale, such as a fundraising gala or an informational booth, showcases time management, leadership, and people skills.
Skill 4: Communication
In a work setting you have the advantage of speaking with your coworkers on a regular basis; whether that’s through email, a phone call, or a face-to-face conversation, you can quickly and adequately discuss project plans or changes. However, in volunteering, you do not always have this luxury. Schedules and level of commitment vary amongst volunteers making accomplishing even the simplest task difficult.
In an interview, speak to the specific communication methods you used to achieve particular goals, as well as the issues you encountered. This is an ideal strategy to accentuate the depth of your leadership via communication management.
Skill 5: Passion
So often we find passion in hobbies outside of work – reading, hiking, art, sports, and the list goes on and on – but it’s not often that we can say we are passionate about something that extends further than ourselves. Volunteerism proves to employers that your passions go beyond self-interest to a concern for others as well as the greater good. A candidate who is driven to donate their time is likely to bring that same passion to the workplace.
For additional job seeker brownie points, research a company’s volunteer efforts and reference them in your interview. Making ties between your passion for giving back and the company’s volunteerism not only shows you are a cultural fit but also that you and the company’s interests align.
Interested in volunteer opportunities? Ask friends and family for recommendations or turn to websites like Volunteer Match to explore local events and organizations ranging in causes from human rights to arts and culture. It is never too early (or late) to get involved.