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Volunteer pamphlet.

6 Ways Volunteering Can Open Doors to a New Career

Learn how volunteering can help you make a positive difference.

By The TFA Editorial Team

January 28, 2018

Volunteering is a key step on your path to becoming a well-developed professional, empathetic human being, and inspiring leader. If graduation is on your horizon, volunteer work can be the all-in-one tool on your quest to make a difference for a cause you care about, while building a post-graduation resume with stand-out potential.

So, for the young job seekers out there, here are a few of the ways that volunteering can not only benefit your community but also give you the meaningful, on-the-job experience you need to shine. 

Enrich Your Life…and the Lives of Others

While a career is important, volunteering enriches your life in the process. Sometimes by investing time in others, we’re able to move past ourselves and gain a fresh perspective on what’s around us. Whether it's health care, the environment or educational equity, volunteering can help you discover what causes and issues matter most to you. And the sooner you find a sense of purpose and mission, the brighter your future will be.

Expand Your Network

Volunteer work helps bridge the gap between college life and real-world experience. Whether you realize it or not, you may be pretty isolated at school, and volunteering is a great way to break out of the university bubble and make new friends and connections.

Fine art, biology, education—no matter your major—more than likely, there’s an established nonprofit or company in your community that aligns with your passions and talents. Get your foot in the door by offering your services. Learn the organization’s faces and names and get the inside scoop—there even may be a job opening around the corner.

Build References

Show your ability to work hard and manage projects, and fingers crossed, you’ll earn the recognition you deserve.

Reliable references from a volunteer-based organization can speak volumes to future hiring managers—particularly when you’re interviewing for that first post-grad position. In addition to showing that you are dependable and hardworking, these references demonstrate your commitment to a meaningful cause.

Meet a Mentor

Far better than a letter of recommendation, finding a potential mentor who shares your cultural or intellectual interests is an invaluable asset for your career growth.

A mentor, colleague or even a previous alumnus of an organization, is your first-hand account of what work-life in your field is all about. They provide support and may also direct you to potential opportunities down the road.

Develop New Skills

Volunteering isn’t just about setting up tables, fielding calls or stuffing envelopes. There are many organizations and grassroots campaigns where volunteering will allow you to take on meaty projects including social media outreach, accounting, drafting letters to an editor or event organizing.

Communication, teamwork, and maintaining professionalism when times are tough are skills and traits best developed in the trenches. The job market is competitive, and volunteer work is a great way to cultivate the kind of transferable skills that will help you find your purpose and set you apart when you embark down your chosen path.

Fine-Tune Your Goals

Today, you may have your heart set on that high-profile agency job or blue-chip partnership. The truth is until you test the waters of the working world, you won’t know for sure. Your career represents the majority of your day and your livelihood. Volunteering is a great way to test and try things out. Who knows, your true passion may lie in a field you least expect.