If you are a college student in undergraduate or graduate school, or a professional with an eye on switching companies or advancing your career, volunteering within your field of study can be valuable. You can build your resume with new skills, expand your professional knowledge, and meet potential colleagues and employers.

Whether your field is medicine, technology, engineering, teaching, journalism, finance or virtually any specialty, the benefits of volunteering are numerous. A 2011 LinkedIn survey of employers showed that 41% of respondents rated volunteer experience equally as important as paid experience. Another LinkedIn survey showed that one out of every five managers in the U.S. says he or she has hired a candidate because of his or her volunteer work experience.

Benefits
Meet potential employers
Even if you are not currently job hunting, it's always a good idea to keep networking to expand your opportunity for future work. Employers would prefer to hire someone who they know to be a dedicated hard worker with good interpersonal skills.

Build a network of references
Meeting a wide range of people through your volunteer work in your chosen field can help you when you begin looking for work or want to change from one office to another. Providing professional references from others in your field that you have worked with in a volunteer capacity can be just as valuable, or even more valuable in some cases, than a reference from your boss.

Develop leadership skills
Depending on where you are in your career, you may not have that many opportunities to develop your own project. When you are a volunteer, you can offer to spearhead a fundraiser, train other volunteers in a new software system, chair a committee or give a lecture. All these things are examples that you can use on your resume to demonstrate your capacity for leadership.

Use tools relevant to your field
If you are still a student or are a relatively new employee in your field, you may not have had the opportunity at work to use all of the tools used by others in your field. For instance, accountants use a variety of systems in their work. It could be valuable to become trained on a new system or expand your use of another type of tool.

Improve your self-confidence
Volunteer work can be a wonderful method of overcoming shyness and improving social skills because you have an inherent shared interest with the people around you. You'll naturally feel a sense of accomplishment simply because you are sacrificing your leisure time to work for free to help an organization or your community. Self-confidence in your social-emotional skills and in your knowledge of your field can be an important factor in encouraging future employers to hire you or promote you.

Disadvantages
While the benefits of volunteering in your field are clear, there are still a few reasons why you may want to limit your volunteer work or consider volunteering in another field. First, you need to make sure you have enough time and energy to volunteer in addition to your other commitments. If work pressures, academics and family time are already overwhelming your schedule, you may want to skip volunteer work until you have more leisure time.

Second, if you find your work or academics stressful, you may prefer to volunteer for something completely different. For example, if you are a computer programmer, you may be better off volunteering to coach a basketball team for a complete break from your usual work.

The Bottom Line
As with any decision related to volunteering, your decision about where and how to volunteer should be based on a clear understanding of your goals, your abilities and your schedule.

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How To Get That Entry-Level Financial Analyst Job

    Landing a job as a financial analyst takes study, strategy and a lot of hard work. Here's how to hone your competitive edge.
  2. Personal Finance

    Does It Make Sense to Go to College in Europe?

    If you're deciding whether to get a degree abroad, first do your research and talk to alumni who have completed the same program.
  3. Professionals

    Small RIAs: How to Level the Playing Field

    In order to compete with larger firms, small RIAs have to get a little creative. Here are a few ways to kickstart growth.
  4. Credit & Loans

    Four Ways to Improve Education In America

    U.S. students place 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries. The United States must reform its education system or harm future economic productivity and global trade competitiveness.
  5. Taxes

    Top Tips for Minimizing Taxes on Severance Pay

    A look at the top ways to lessen the tax burden on severance pay.
  6. Retirement

    These Are the Top Jobs for Retirees

    Learn some of the best jobs available for retirees who want to stay busy. These include retail, driving, call center work and tutoring.
  7. Personal Finance

    8 Profitable Majors For The College-Bound In 2015

    Choose your college major wisely to justify the rising cost of higher education. Here are 8 majors that lead to good jobs and high salaries.
  8. Professionals

    Scholar vs. Entrepreneur: What's Your Calling?

    You don't need a bachelor's degree to launch your own company. But which path — school or entrepreneurship — offers a better start to your work life?
  9. Personal Finance

    8 Reasons Why Valued Employees Quit

    Salaries are important, but retaining top employees requires more than just providing competitive pay.
  10. Professionals

    How Advisors Can Minimize Their Own Risks

    Risk management is important in any enterprise. But when it comes to the financial advisory business, the stakes are higher.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Series 6

    A securities license entitling the holder to register as a limited ...
  2. Whartonite

    A graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University ...
  3. Advanced Diploma In Insurance

    A qualification earned by insurance professionals and conferred ...
  4. Associate In Personal Insurance ...

    A designation earned by professionals looking for training in ...
  5. Associate In Reinsurance (ARe)

    A designation earned by insurance professionals looking for reinsurance ...
  6. Associate In Surplus Lines Insurance ...

    A designation earned by insurance professionals involved with ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How can an investment banker switch to a career in corporate finance?

    It's pretty easy for an investment banker to switch to a career in corporate finance. The career skills are easily transferable, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the best MBA programs for corporate finance?

    Opinions vary based on which publications you consult, but the best MBA programs for a career in corporate finance are at ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the benefits of hiring a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) to be my financial ...

    A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) has successfully passed rigorous coursework in the fields of economics, financial analysis, ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I get started with a career in asset management?

    The asset management industry has a variety of different career paths. Depending on what asset management area you would ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!