How Volunteering Can Help You Build On Your Next Career

Written by Emma Atkin

Every person can help in ways both big and small by providing time and skills to your community, especially now. Volunteering is one of the ways to pitch in, as well as a great way to add experience to your CV and learn some new skills!    

Volunteering has helped lead me to my new career. I’ve volunteered twice professionally. The first time was five years ago to explore working with disadvantaged social groups. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pursue a master’s in Global Health. The second time was more recently when I finally decided to try my hand at politics through volunteering for a political party. This experience has changed my career path.

 So how can volunteering help you with your next career?

Connect to a wider professional community.

As a volunteer, you are uniquely exposed to industries and individuals you would otherwise never meet. As the founder of Empower Amsterdam, Shea Harty, talked about in a Weekly Online Community Chat, ‘Building Your Network’ networking is more about farming than hunting. Volunteering can be a productive way of networking because it goes beyond a networking event and creates meaningful connections through the collaboration and work you do with others. 

Depending on which organization you volunteer for, volunteer work could link back to a professional organization or industry you might want to work for in the future. It could therefore not only improve your professional reputation but often volunteers become potential candidates as they have shown they are committed and believe in the organization’s cause.  

Develop new or build upon existing skills.

Volunteering can put you in new and unexpected situations, helping you learn something new or further your knowledge of current skills. These new insights can later be transferred to other professional positions. While volunteering in homeless shelters in Amsterdam, I had to learn how to communicate with both the visitors and fellow volunteers in a way that was sensitive to the needs of both groups. Learning valuable communication skills, teamwork, interpersonal skills, and time management skills are all transferable skills I can take with me in my next career.

These new skills are also a great addition to your CV, both to display how you utilized your skills for a good cause as well as showcasing your personal interests and passions. Additionally, stories from your time as a volunteer can provide some useful examples for interview questions, and you may even find common ground with the person interviewing you. Check out more tips for preparing for an interview in the Netherlands in our blog post, ‘Interview Prep 101’.

An opportunity to test out a role or transition between careers.

Finally, volunteering is a way to find out what you are looking for professionally. It is a chance to work in a different environment, to try out a new role within an organization, or even to explore how you work in general. Personally, I was always interested in working in politics but wasn’t sure how to enter into a workforce that I had limited experience in even though I had more than enough passion! Volunteering seemed like the right way to approach this, and in a short time, I learned a great deal and even decided to pursue a full-time career in this area! 

So what are the next steps?

Find organizations that you think have a meaningful impact, are accessible to you geographically, and decide what kind of time you can realistically commit. Then start reaching out to those organizations!

If you’re in Amsterdam, check out these resources:

If you’re passionate and interested in helping unemployed people get back to work, we’re always looking for more volunteers for Empower Amsterdam. You don’t have to be in Amsterdam either! A lot of our work is done virtually especially our social media marketing, content sharing, and our online events. Here’s a list of current positions we’re looking for but if you have something else you think you can offer, please contact us!

Now more than ever, it's important to maintain existing relationships and make the effort to build new ones for the future. We all want to stay connected and volunteering is a great way to meet new people in your community who share your interests, and most importantly - have some fun!