Volunteer work often involves skills and responsibilities that translate nicely to the workplace, but people tend to neglect those activities and say “it wasn’t a real job.”
Volunteering as a Big Brother was challenging and satisfying for me. I connected with a delightful young man and watched him grow. In addition, this activity led to unanticipated opportunities including a board of directors membership.
Volunteering makes you feel productive and useful, values that are key to career success. How can volunteering help you?
- Developing and improving key skills.
- Forcing you to expand your network.
- Building confidence by showing that you can always learn and apply yourself in different ways.
- Presenting opportunities for you to market yourself.
Another benefit of volunteer work is that you can talk about it on your LinkedIn profile.
If you have experience as a volunteer, you can add a section to your profile that reflects that experience, and it’s somethingVolunteer that’s not done often enough. LinkedIn reports that 41 percent of the professionals it surveyed viewed that experience as a meaningful part of the profile, and 20 percent of those surveyed claimed to have based hiring decisions on a candidate’s volunteer activity.
One great advantage of LinkedIn is that it allows you to link to material that can’t be easily incorporated into the traditional resume and cover letter. In the “additional information” section, you can include links to your website, a company site, your Twitter account, and anything that is relevant and persuasive. If you have a professional blog, include a link. If you belong to industry associations, include those links as well. There’s even a spot for outside interests, and, while a section dedicated to hobbies and the like is rarely a good choice for a paper resume, it somehow fits well in the virtual world.
Your LinkedIn profile is not set in stone. If you get a new job, been involved in a major project, or recently accomplished something of note, update your profile. If nothing else, a profile that’s current says you’re engaged and interested in your career and not just coasting along on automatic pilot. When your profile hasn't been touched in years, those qualities are not so evident. There’s a lot more to LinkedIn than your profile, of course, but, without question, this is the place that starts putting LinkedIn to work.