1 December 2021

Helping Helps the Helper

By P Michael

Has anyone ever told you what the worst kept secret in a job search is? You tweak your CV, polish your LinkedIn profile, learn every detail about the company and brush up on your interview skills. Still, your dream job is hard to come by. So what’s the worst kept secret in a job search? It’s volunteering.

A lot of us volunteers at one point in our life, but not everyone thinks it is worth mentioning in their CV. Including your volunteerism activities in your CV is a great way to stand out among the sea of CVs hiring managers receive. It shows you are community-minded and gives you the chance to prove your professional skills.

Before you dismiss this article as another cheesy do-gooder trying to get you off that chair and make a difference in the world (which this writer think you should), hear us out.
In 2017, Deloitte released its 2016 Impact Survey* where it shared that more than 80% of hiring managers would choose an applicant with volunteering experience. The survey further states that volunteering illustrates your character, as an individual and a professional, and in this time when job hunting is a tough affair, this value carries a certain weightage. Also…

Volunteering is as credible as paid work. Really. Volunteering is a credible way to gain real-work experience and is worth adding to your CV. Ask anyone responsible for hiring and firing and they would tell you that as long as the volunteering tasks are relevant to the industry you want to work in, hiring managers believe it is credible as paid work. Isn’t that sign enough that the volunteerism stint you did helping paint the walls of the children’s home should be featured in your CV. This mention will come in handy, especially if you’re a first-time jobseeker.
Volunteering presents opportunities to network. Networking is not just done on LinkedIn or at formal networking events. This is where volunteering plays a role as it is an easy and natural way to make new connections in your area of interest. Being in a friendly, low-pressure environment, you’ll find that volunteering gives you more genuine and engaging conversations with others who share your interest. Chances are, you’ll make more meaningful connections during this time than you would ever have around an appetizer buffet at a networking event.

Volunteering gives you the advantage in a job interview. We all know volunteering benefits the community, leaves you feeling good about something good you’ve done while providing support and resources to those who need it. But more importantly, volunteering gives you an advantage in job interviews especially when the experience is relevant to the job you want. That means that administrative tasks you performed at the Children’s Cancer Society fundraising event could probably help you get one foot in the door for the Office Manager job you applied for.

Volunteering helps build your confidence. Increased knowledge. Improved social skills. Expanded network. All these help present you as a well-rounded candidate during an interview. Plus, your experiences give you a few different talking points to those common interview questions. On top of all the details you can provide on your various skills, you can also share how you applied them to real-world settings. How about that for a confidence booster?

Photo courtesy of UNICEF

Volunteering showcases your growth mindset. Being a volunteer shows that you never stop learning, developing new skills and discovering new passions. You’re not only learning about yourself but also the world around you. And if the volunteerism stint allows you to travel, this opens you to new communities, cultures and practices, experiences of which probably have a deep impact on how you see things. This exposure and assimilation also prove to employers that you strive to learn, see problems as opportunities and persist despite obstacles.

Volunteering demonstrates valuable personality traits. Apart from what they learned about you from your CV and during the recruitment process, volunteering tells prospective employers about who you are. It demonstrates personality traits that are unseen during interviews and speak volumes of a persons’ commitment to causes. Being motivated, socially responsible and proactive are some traits employers in any industry would value highly.

If you’re not already, the best time to get involved in volunteerism is during your first year at uni. By the time you’re a senior, you’ll have the skills, network and experiences to tackle job interviews. Notably, there are no employers who don’t appreciate proactiveness and trustworthiness, and do you know of any jobs that don’t require good people skills? None? This is why volunteering stints pays off.

*2016 Deloitte Impact Survey Building leadership skills through volunteerism

In celebration of the millions of volunteers around the world, this article is written to commemorate International Volunteer Day which is celebrated globally on 5 December annually. The theme for IVD 2021 is “Volunteer now for our common future”, a theme that encourages, recognise and promotes volunteerism towards a more equal and inclusive society.

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