Mills: Volunteer experiences mean something to employers

Volunteering is important on many levels. We should proudly celebrate their contributions.

This being National Volunteer Week, what a great time to acknowledge all the unpaid workers who make the world go round.

We should proudly celebrate their contributions. Volunteering is important on many levels.

We know that certain not-for-profit organizations could not function without the efforts of volunteers. What though, is in it for the volunteers?

This is not a crass question, but rather a prompt to consider what motivates volunteers to commit to and engage in the work that is being asked of them.

People volunteer for all kinds of reasons. It is a way to help others in need and to support causes that have meaning and add value to the community as well as the world at large.

Volunteering is also a means of staying connected with people.

When people are out of the workforce they lose the social side of employment.

Being unemployed or retired can create a sense of isolation and volunteering can keep a person linked to the outside world in a healthy way.

As well, volunteering is a resourceful way to bridge gaps in employment and boost self esteem.

When someone is in between jobs it can be a blessing to find unpaid work that allows them to feel useful and productive.

In particular, things like local sports and recreation events or community projects are great opportunities to informally network as well.

Whether someone is working or not, volunteering offers opportunities for significant personal and professional growth.

It is so important though to find the right fit so that those benefits can be realized.

Exactly what constitutes a positive volunteer experience will differ from person to person.

Some people are just happy to give their time, do whatever work is needed and be the helping hands that ease the workloads of others.

On the other hand, there are volunteers who need more than that.

These individuals are keen to contribute their expertise knowing certain not-for-profit organizations would not be able to afford them otherwise.

In both examples, the people who donate their time get something in return, as they should.

Finding a compatible volunteer situation demands the same focus and effort that a job search requires. While many organizations are short of volunteers, it does not mean that they will accept just anyone who applies.

Volunteer recruitment, when done well, follows the same principles as regular recruitment.

Potential volunteers need to be clear about what they are offering and be able to present their skills, experience and personal qualities clearly so that the organization or ad hoc group can assess whether those meet their particular needs.

From the volunteer’s perspective, there is certainly nothing wrong with choosing roles that enhance one’s professional profile.

The reality is that employers look more closely these days at applicants’ community and volunteer experience. Where and how people choose to spend their time outside work tells a potential employer a lot about an applicants’ character and personal values.

In some cases not having current volunteer experience listed on a resume will make the difference between getting hired or not.

Giving something back to the community—local or global—is still the best reason to volunteer. The opportunities are diverse and the need is always there. With careful consideration and clear purpose, the right match will yield benefits for everyone.

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