3 Ways Volunteering Can Help You Land Your First Job

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Volunteering is about helping others, but there can be something in it for the kindhearted people who give of their time and effort too. Recruiters and career coaches recommend volunteering as an entryway to a career. With the proper planning and approach, it can land you a job.

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What Studies Show

Monster.com, VolunteerMatch and Walden University all quote a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which indicates that ​27 percent​ of volunteers find a job after being out of work. This climbs to more than half – ​55 percent​ – in rural areas. Another study of human resources executives showed that 81 percent felt that volunteer work should be considered in hiring decisions.

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It doesn't even have to be a full-time position. You can reap the benefits of volunteer work in just two to three hours a week.

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Consider also:Things You Don't Need to Do Before a Job Interview, Contrary to What Everyone Says

1. Sharpens and Expands Your Skill Set

Your skills could probably use a little fine-tuning if you've never actually used them in a job setting. You might be a particularly persuasive individual, but volunteering in a sales role and using that gift can help you fine-tune it in a productive way.

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You might even discover skills that you didn't know you had, leading to a specific career path you haven't considered yet. You can experiment with roles that might be new to you to find out if you have an affinity for that kind of work.

2. Widens Your Network

Landing a job begins with knowing where to look. Who's hiring? You'll most likely meet people through your volunteer work who will know the answer to that question at any given time. Volunteers tend to have a good many community contacts and can provide you with referrals. They may be more than happy to put in a good word for you, too, providing you with references and recommendations.

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3. Improves Your Resume

It's not that you don't have job skills when you're starting out in the workforce, but you can't ask prospective employers to simply take your word for it. Including your volunteer work on your resume provides you with a track record. It shouts "EXPERIENCE!" It shows that you've actually worked in this capacity or a similar one. It speaks to your reliability and work ethic, particularly if you've been volunteering with the same organization for a while.

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Volunteering also says something about you personally. It shows that you've taken action to become involved in issues that need fixing. This can help you stand out from others who are in your same boat – and who haven't volunteered. VolunteerMatch states that ​85 percent​ of human resources personnel indicate that they're inclined to overlook other flaws in a resume if volunteer work is included. It can break or make your case if the decision is a close call.

Consider also:5 Things to Know About a Killer Resume

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Monster.com recommends using the name of the organization you've volunteered for on your resume – not just the word "volunteer" – then describe your duties and responsibilities there.

Finding Volunteer Work

It's almost a given that a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter or an animal shelter in your area could use a helping hand. It's unlikely you'll be turned away – unless they think you're doing this for the sole purpose of bolstering your resume and that you'll be out the door as soon as you land a "real" job.

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Make a commitment for a specified period of time, then stick to it. This can be easier if you volunteer in your field, a service that really interests you, or a field related to the career you're looking to pursue.

You might also consider looking into nationally based volunteer opportunities such as the American Red Cross or the U.S. Peace Corps. VolunteerMatch will guide you to some options based on your areas of interest and location.

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