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Ten reasons why smart grads volunteer

Brianne Turk

Careers Commentator
Rolling your eyes at volunteer work? Think again. Here’s why volunteering is a game-changer in the graduate recruitment market.

We get it. You’d prefer to be paid than to give your time for free.

But what if we told you that volunteering could fast track your career?

Here are ten reasons why smart grads volunteer:

1. Work experience

Remember all those jobs you couldn’t apply for (or missed out on) because you didn’t have relevant experience? Who said that experience had to be paid? If the barrier between where you are and where you would like to be is a lack of hands-on experience, volunteer work is the perfect way to bridge the gap. Stop waiting for businesses to change their recruitment criteria. Take matters into your own hands and improve your chances of landing that dream job.

2. Transferable skills

Strengthen your CV with workplace skills developed through volunteering. Examples include teamwork, problem solving, managing pressure, prioritising tasks and taking initiative, all of which can be applied in any setting. Even better, volunteer in the same field as you’d like to work and you’ll pick up industry specific skills, such as how to use key computer programs or understand industry lingo.

3. Try something different

Volunteering allows you to try your hand at different roles in different industries, and get a better idea of what sort of career you’d like to pursue. As most volunteer work doesn’t require a long-term commitment, you’ll be able to explore and move on from opportunities as you wish. Have fun and take some risks - you never know what you might discover!

4. Impress future employers

When interviews roll around, any volunteer experience will be looked on favourably. Working for no monetary gain (especially as a student or graduate) displays determination, motivation and initiative, which gives you a fantastic head start over other candidates.

5. Show passion

Volunteers typically work for organisations and causes they feel strongly about. Their passion is snapped up quickly as it’s considered to be an innate trait that can’t be taught. Passion is very appealing for organisations because passionate people invigorate an entire team and tend to stick at it when the going gets tough.

6. References

When writing job applications it’s important to have something that sets you apart from the crowd. Having a couple of fantastic referees who can vouch for you and comfortably recommend you as an employee could very well be what gets you to the next round.

7. Stay busy and positive

There’s nothing worse than the unemployment blues. Waking up with nowhere to go and nothing to do puts a lot of people in a slump. It’s impossible to put your best foot forward in an interview when all you’ve been doing is writing applications and watching the clock tick tock. Volunteer work is a great way to stay engaged, connected to others and feeling a sense of purpose while you’re playing the waiting game.

8. Build your networks

It’s time to get chatting! Volunteer work puts you in prime position to network both within the organisation and the industry more broadly, without having to worry that your boss thinks you’re trying to ‘jump ship’. Make career contacts and engage with as many different people as you can — you never know when or how a connection might come in handy. And when that paid position becomes available… well, you might just be at the front of their mind.  

9. Get higher, faster

A lot of volunteer organisations are small in size with limited resources, so they rely heavily on individuals to step up and pitch in wherever possible. This means volunteers may find opportunities to take on tasks and roles that might otherwise be outside or above their level of expertise. Collecting and developing skills at a faster rate than in a typical paid position, might then allow you to jump ahead of your peers when you do eventually secure paid work.

10. Feel fantastic

There’s no denying it. Offering help and working for a cause brings a uniquely satisfying and rewarding feeling. You get back as much as you give, and you just know that you are ‘doing good’ by contributing to society. Your sense of self worth is raised, and you feel fantastic!

With so many reasons why volunteering could kick-start your career, you’d be silly not to give it a go! Head here to read more!