How to Find a Volunteer Experience That Will Make a Real Impact AND Help You Get Your Next Job

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

Image of career advice

Last month, we got to share exciting research (and a cool infographic) that shows how recruiters and hiring managers value volunteer experience during the hiring process, and how volunteer experience can help you get your dream job.

But not all volunteer experiences are created equal. In fact, there are some types of volunteer projects that will make a bigger impact AND help your job search, too.

Here are 4 tips to find a volunteer experience that can actually help your career path while making the world a better place.

1. Find opportunities where your skills and qualifications will make a measurable difference

Good For The World: One of the leading barriers to progress is a lack of access to skills. No matter what skills you have, there is a startup, nonprofit, or other locally-led organization that can benefit from your work. For this reason, it’s really important that you try and find a project where you can volunteer your real skills – we call it Experteering.

Good For Your Job: Finding a project that needs your skills does more than make a catalytic impact, it will also look better on your resume, too. As we shared in our research on this topic, by listing your volunteer experience as “pro bono consulting” in the work section of your resume, your volunteer work will help you stand out.

2. Don’t just build something… make a sustainable impact

Good For The World: Organizations working in the field are resource-strapped. When you volunteer with them you’ll use up some of their precious resources. Sometimes, we see that volunteers are so interested in “making a difference” or “building something” that they try and execute their own ideas instead of actually building something that matters. Our advice is to measure success as something that happens one year after you leave, and focus on empowering local efforts, not pushing your own ideas.

Good For Your Job: This will also help you once you make it to interviews for your dream job. In fact, an interviewing best practice is to talk about projects in this format: Situation, task, action, and result. So, when you volunteer, make sure to understand the actual result of your work so you can use that in your job conversations.

3. Take initiative and deliver results

Good For The World: You have to be careful here. It’s important that you do deliver results as a volunteer, but as we wrote about in our volunteer best practices (and our Udemy training), you don’t want to push your own ideas. Instead, the goal is to empower local efforts. So, sometimes taking initiative means training others, finding new resources, and/or helping them discover options on their own.

Good For Your Job: Your future employer wants to know that you are a go-getter. In addition to your previous work experience, your volunteer experience can demonstrate your ability to make sense of chaos and deliver results. When it comes to you and your interview, being able to talk about how you can deliver results through others, and that you took initiative to do so, will really make you stand out!

4. Work on something you are capable of doing, but that also stretches you

Good For The World: When volunteering, it’s critical that you work on a project you are actually capable of completing. However, it’s also a good idea to work on a project that pushes you, too. One of the surprising benefits of volunteering is that it provides an awesome avenue to develop new skills.

Good For Your Job: When you find a project, make sure to talk to your partner at the organization about the different aspects of the project. Share your interest in working in stretch area and developing new skills, Maybe your contact can even help with that. The more you focus on building a partnership where both partners benefit, the better.

If you haven’t looked at using Experteering as a way to get ahead in your career, you should. Not only will it help you get ahead, but it’ll make the world a better place in the process, too.