Several years ago, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. I love the work they do creating affordable housing, but I had another motive, too: I wanted to learn valuable skills. I framed houses, put up siding and did interior and exterior painting.
The experience led to paid painting jobs, and I enjoyed the work. Now that I feel comfortable calling myself a painter, I have new employment possibilities or could even start a painting business.
Volunteering with non-profit organizations provides an opportunity to help others while helping your own financial future.
In addition to the satisfaction of contributing to a cause you care about, here are some of the personal benefits you might get as a volunteer:
- A better resume.
- Marketable skills.
- Knowledge needed for a future business.
- Networking opportunities.
- A job with the organization for which you volunteer.
- A job with a business or non-profit that does related work.
Volunteering Builds Skills — and Even a Better Salary
Working as a volunteer can help you quickly improve your resume, and that could help you earn more money down the line. You may not realize it at the time, but boxing up meals in an assembly line, doing intake interviews with people seeking assistance or helping plant a community garden all build skills that can make you a more attractive hire.
That’s true even in the modern job market. For example, if you volunteer to manage Facebook and Twitter accounts for a local charity, you can add “social media management” to your resume. And managing the phone bank for a few non-profit fundraising events gives you call center experience.
The skills you develop and the knowledge you gain as a volunteer can be valuable in a number of ways. They can lead to jobs and businesses, yes. But when I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, I was thinking as an investor. I wanted to do rehabilitation work on homes so I could feel more comfortable buying, fixing and selling a house for a profit.
How Volunteering Can Broaden Your Professional Network
If making professional connections is one of your goals, you’ll be in good company. Active community organizations are where many professional connections are made. Their boards of directors are typically stacked with prominent business people, so go into every event and meeting with networking on your mind.
Your goal might be to get a job in the organization where you volunteer. Two of the crew managers I worked with at Habitat for Humanity had been on payroll for over 15 years, but they both started out as volunteers. Sunshine, a DJ on community radio station KKFI, started out as a volunteer before getting hired to do her own show. Stories like hers are common.
Of course, that volunteer time on the radio could have led Sunshine to a job at another radio station. Once you have that experience on your resume, there are many possibilities.
Locating the Best Volunteer Positions
In virtually every community across the country, there are organizations doing meaningful work — and they always need extra hands. The best volunteer opportunity for you is the one that stirs up your passion and gives you a sense of fulfillment. It may be something that uses skills you already have, which you’ll be putting to use for a good cause. Or it may well teach you something that opens up new paths, like a Habitat volunteer becoming a real estate investor.
If you’re new to an area and aren’t familiar with the organizations, you can find opportunities online. One great resource is Volunteer Match. On their website, you can enter your location and you’ll be prompted to choose a category or search by keyword. If you live in a small to medium-sized city just click the search button without entering anything to get all the results.
Steve Gillman is a contributor to Codetic.