Nick Harpur.

Wanted: volunteers

Research from LinkedIn has found that your volunteering experience is more important to employers than you may think.

There is no doubt that voluntary work is a useful addition to a CV but typically it isn’t viewed in the same way as ‘real’ work experience. But according to research by the world’s largest professional network LinkedIn, more than half (55 per cent) of professionals surveyed said that when evaluating candidates they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. What’s more, it also found that one in five hiring managers have made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s volunteer work experience.

Connie Gibney, international HR director at LinkedIn says volunteer work can help to make candidates at all levels stand out but is a particularly important aspect of a recent graduate’s professional biography.

What volunteering shows a potential employer

“Volunteer experience can illustrate a well-rounded professional as it can be used to demonstrate professional skills such as organisation, communication and even technical skills,” she says. “It may also show an entrepreneurial spirit which is important in some organisations.”

Given that volunteer work can form a key part of a person’s professional identity, LinkedIn offers members a chance to highlight their activities via a new Volunteer Experience and Causes field. Its research also found that while 63 per cent of respondents have had some kind of volunteering experience, only 55 per cent include it on their CV.

“Highlighting volunteer experience is a great way to round out your professional profile and show a spirit of giving on a personal level which can also appeal to future employers,” says Gibney. “It’s important to use tools such as the Volunteer Experience and Causes field on LinkedIn to keep all your volunteer activities up-to-date. Also you may find that a job opportunity in a charity may be at your fingertips by simply volunteering to start and getting to know charities and their activities.”

Nick Harpur, who graduated from Warwick University this summer with a 2.1 degree in MEng (manufacturing), is among one of the first to make use of the new feature. Whilst at university he was president of Warwick Snow (one of the largest societies on campus) and as part of his work endorsed and organised voluntary work which involved collaborating with Disability Snowsport UK, a national charity which seeks to enrich and enhance the lives of those living with a disability by enabling them to take part sports such as skiing and snowboarding.

“Being president of Warwick Snow has provided me with leadership skills, improved my time management and given me the opportunity to think on my feet,” says Harpur, who plans to work one ski season in Whistler before looking for full-time employment. “The volunteer work I carried out with Warwick Snow Sport also gave me the opportunity to get involved in event-planning and gave me valuable insight into the ways in which awareness can be raised.”

Do something you’re passionate about!

While it is good to have volunteering work that relates to your industry, Gibney says that it is important to volunteer with a charity and therefore a cause that you are passionate about.

“This will come across as a strong statement in an interview. Therefore I’d really encourage people to focus on a cause they truly care about rather than what an employer may sponsor,” she says, adding that there is no reason that the volunteering has to stop once an individual finds a full-time job.

“I’d also encourage employees to work with volunteer organisations that their companies may partner with. For example, LinkedIn works with Sparked.com to bring advice to non-profits in a variety of sectors. This allows us as employees to contribute real advice to charities we care about.”

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