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YOUR STORY. OUR HERITAGE.

Volunteering helps non-profit organizations deliver their mission to improve the community. In turn, it helps you feel useful and productive, thus improving your confidence and self-worth. Making a difference in the lives of others is rewarding and life-changing.

The following are some of the many reasons you should consider donating your time – for your community and your job search:

Test out other careers.

One of the more attractive facets of volunteering is the opportunity to explore different careers. You get to try various jobs on for size, meet people in different industries, and experience the challenges and rewards of the work.

If the responsibilities that come with the volunteer opportunity spark your interest, you could always parlay that into a career in an entirely different field or industry — one that’s different then your background and education, even.

Develop new skills.

There’s no shortage of nonprofits in every city, and their services run the gamut from ending homelessness to combating childhood obesity. In other words, you’ll likely find an organization that matches your values and interests.

Besides, most nonprofits are short-staffed, with plenty of potential duties to take on. Maybe you’ll have the opportunity to work on a website, craft marketing emails, track donations, or even organize events. Each new task will improve and expand your skill set.

In fact, 92 percent of people who influence hiring decisions say that volunteering improves an employee’s leadership skills and broader professional skill set. Another 80 percent say that active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.

Expand your network.

Volunteering often exposes you to people you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to meet. And with anywhere from 60 percent to 80 percent of jobs being found through personal relationships, you never know whether a contact will lead to a job.

Let’s say, for example, someone on the board of a charitable organization runs a business. If you do good work, and people take notice, she could bring you in for an interview when a job opens up. After all, it’s not what you know, but who.

Bridge resume gaps.

When potential employers see a gap in your resume, they’re going to bring it up. By volunteering, you bridge that gap and increase your chances of finding a new job. People who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to find a job after being out of work than those who don’t.

Highlight your personal values.

Your resume can only tell potential employers so much about you. And with companies placing more emphasis on corporate social responsibility, your volunteer work can help illustrate how your values match those of the organization. Nowadays, employers want a cultural fit just as much as a skills fit.

Stand out in the job market.

Just 45 percent of professionals include their volunteer work on their resumes — even though nearly 90 percent of them have donated time to a cause. If you volunteer, and highlight the experience on your resume, you help differentiate yourself from the competition, while emphasizing your commitment to the community.

If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of online resources to connect you with nonprofits and other charitable organizations. Check VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and Points of Light’s HandsOn Network for volunteer opportunities in your area.

So to anyone out there looking for a job, we want to tell you to keep volunteering — or at least start. It’s hard work, no doubt. But the experience you’ll get and connections you’ll make in the nonprofit sector will help you get that dream job.