We’re knee-deep in the Christmas season and between bell-ringers and carolers – I’ve got volunteering on the brain. Christmas break is the perfect time for anyone – especially you grad students out there – to take time giving back as a volunteer. Volunteering has proven mental and physical health benefits. But if you need one more reason to volunteer in the season of giving, have you ever considered the ways volunteering can boost your professional development?
Build Your Network
When you spend most of your time between work, school and home, it’s easy to live in a social bubble. Volunteering takes you outside your social comfort zone and into your community, and it’s one of the best ways to meet new people. Groups for young professionals often host community service opportunities. If you’re in Buffalo, check out B-team Buffalo for volunteer opportunities around the city with service-minded young professionals. Especially when your volunteer work aligns with your career, you can meet valuable contacts in the volunteer community.
Pad Your Resume
Volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean serving soup to the homeless or building homes for low-income families. Not-for-profit organizations have all the needs of for-profit businesses, and that includes marketing, public relations, accounting, fundraising, leadership development, technical support, team training, web design… If you’re looking to learn a new professional skill or try it out in the real world, any number of local organizations could benefit from your work. Remote volunteering is a great way to do this. The United Nations has an online volunteering network where you can connect with organizations. Opportunities range from one-time-only to a months-long agreement, and you’ll find opportunities like designing college course curriculum, IT development and web design.
Impress Your Boss
Volunteering isn’t “pretend work” – and many employers know that! The skills you build as a volunteer – from intercultural communication, writing or tutoring skills to marketing, fundraising or leadership – are valuable professional experience. That’s probably why, according to a 2007 Timebank study, 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without.
You can find even more professional development volunteering ideas in this article from the United Nations volunteer network. How has volunteering impacted your life?