It’s common to feel stifled by your daily routine – how do you develop professionally when you’re burdened with projects, deadlines and commitments?

There are lots of different ways to gain experience outside of the workplace – you could enrol in a training course, seek out an internship or even spend your evenings doing some freelance work. It might also be worthwhile to consider volunteering. Becoming a volunteer can fit around your job and can help you to gain confidence and advance in your career.

You impress potential employers

Facing the ‘need experience to get experience’ dilemma? Volunteering allows you to develop new skills and gain practical experience which can help you to impress prospective employers. A recent Deloitte study found that 76% of hiring executives believed the competencies acquired through volunteering made job candidates more desirable. Time spent managing a fundraising project or helping out with a local community group could be the very thing that sets you apart from other candidates with similar work experience. Our recruiters look very favourably on those with volunteering experience and are likely to highlight this when putting them forward for positions.

You can create opportunities

Your ideal volunteering position might not be advertised, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If you believe you can help a voluntary organisation to progress, outline why this is the case and offer your services. A friend of mine wanted to break into digital marketing but lacked concrete examples of social media management for her CV. She saw that a local charity had no online presence so suggested setting up and managing their Facebook and Twitter profiles. A few months later, she was able to detail this experience in an interview and secure her dream digital job.

You become more employable

If there’s an obvious gap on your CV, a potential employer might look negatively on your application. As unfair as it is, there’s nothing to distinguish months spent applying for jobs from months spent lazing about doing nothing. Volunteering shows that you didn’t just sulk at home feeling sorry for yourself – you went out there and made an effort to improve your employability. You should detail the responsibilities and successes of your role as you would a paid-job, making sure you use ‘Project Manager’, ‘Activity Leader’ or ‘Fundraiser’ instead of ‘Volunteer’.

You improve your network

Check out your industry leaders’ LinkedIn profiles and chances are they are passionate about charitable causes or involved in community programmes. What better way to make connections with these people than to volunteer alongside them? This is particularly valuable if you are considering a career change and want to hear about opportunities that may not be advertised online or on job boards. Join a non-profit board, coach a youth sports team, head to Rotaract club meetings – whatever it is to get your name out there and meet others in your field. Even if you are 100% happy in your job, volunteering can give you access to potential clients or partners, and improve your professional reputation.

You gain perspective

Volunteering can also instil a sense of purpose and confidence that you may lack during the job hunt. I know helping out at a local charity shop put a pep in my step and took me out of my comfort zone while I was looking for a job straight out of college. Likewise, it’s much easier to forget a stressful project or looming deadline when you spend an hour or two putting someone or something else first after a long day in the office. Surveys back up these feelings, proving that people who regularly participate in volunteer activities are more likely to be loyal and satisfied employees.

If you’re interested in volunteering get in touch with Volunteer Ireland or approach your local community group. Don’t just do it because you’re selfless and want to give something back – be selfish and reap the professional benefits too. Your community and CV will thank you for it.

Hoping to get a new job with that volunteering experience?

Find Jobs