Waiting by the telephone for a call about a job interview feels a lot like waiting by the mailbox for a college acceptance to be delivered. There are many similarities between applying to college and applying for a job. As a job seeker, you have worked to build a top-notch resume and sharpened your interview skills to highlight your unique skill set and the positive ways you will impact any company lucky enough to hire you. Similarly, college applicants are building their resumes, drawing attention to their academic accolades and accomplishments. While your resume may not include AP courses and SAT results, it is filled with years of experience and the quantifiable impact you have made in previous roles and your interview is virtually a verbal college essay. Similarities can also be found on the acceptance side of job seeking and college admissions. Colleges and companies are looking for the best of the best- individuals who bring extraordinary talent, experience, proven success, and vision that will improve upon the current culture.

But what defines “the best”? Both corporate and academic institutions are finally acknowledging that the long-held ways of identifying “the best” are no longer working in the face of our new social and professional economy. In a recent and highly publicized study conducted by the Harvard School of Education, entitled Turning the Tide, some of the most widely recognized universities across the country are acknowledging that the current requirements for the college admissions process are not only detrimental to the health of students but they fail to “encourage students to focus on meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement.” The report includes concrete recommendations in 3 core areas. First and foremost, “promoting more meaningful contributions to others, community service, and engagement with the public good.”

Unsurprisingly, we are seeing this shift in focus in the corporate world as well. “Increasingly, corporate bosses… are taking notice of job candidates’ volunteer efforts.”  The reasons for the change are many.

4 Reasons Your Volunteer Work Will Help You Get Hired

1. Volunteering helps fill gaps in your work history and adds experience. Whether you decided to take time off to raise a family or you were collateral damage in the recession’s push for companies to “downsize” many professionals have significant gaps in their work history. Volunteering your time in an area relevant to your career shows your desire to remain in your field of interest as well as keep your professional skill sharp and current. A recent LinkedIn survey found that “41% of hiring managers found volunteer experiences equally valuable as paid work.”  Mentioning your accomplishments or awards in a volunteer position is equally as impressive as the ones you earn in your professional roles.

2. Volunteering demonstrates commitment and character. Many professionals have dedicated countless hours to causes or organizations that are near and dear to them. A long-term commitment to your local homeless outreach program or serving as a professional mentor for students through Junior Achievement both demonstrate your social mindedness and other character traits appealing to corporations. In fact, volunteer experience at well-known organizations demonstrates your ability to achieve challenging goals seen often found in corporate settings.

3.Volunteering allows you to develop new skills and fine-tune old ones. In its 2013 Volunteer Impact Survey, “Deloitte found that 76% of human resource executives said the skills and experience acquired while volunteering make a job candidate more desirable.”  Many professionals work their way up the corporate ladder. However, most do so within a certain department/group, limiting exposure to new experiences or skills. Committing your time to organizations of interest in new and different ways than your do in the office will give you an opportunity to flex new professional muscles and gain new strengths. It could be the differentiator that demonstrates you are interested in continuing to professionally grow.

4. Volunteering casts your networking net wider than your current experiences have allowed. We all know that employers are more likely to hire candidates with whom they share professional connections and have a proven record of success. Even when volunteering with an organization that is within the same field you currently work, you are introducing yourself to an entirely new pool of people. In doing so, you now have an even larger group of professionals who know that you are reliable, competent, easy to work with, a great leader etc. Simply put, you have a new network of people who can vouch for you in their network.

“Sometimes changing one thing in a culture changes everything.” (6) The bold endorsement by highly sought after universities such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Trinity- just to name a few- to change the current college application process in order to expand students’ experiences beyond the classroom and into the larger community is a step in the march to change culture. This will have a long-term impact on the future of the corporate world, by graduating more well-rounded culturally-minded young men and women. However, the responsibility does not only lie with future graduates. Current professionals can also change culture by volunteering their time to the greater community. Not only will it benefit the community at large, but it may even help you land the job you’ve always wanted.

Learn about all the ways TurningPoint serves in the community.

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