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Volunteer experience is a way to make you a great job applicant by:
  • providing new skills
  • gaining real-life experience
  • exploring career fields
  • networking
  • increasing self-confidence
Volunteering is also a great way to show qualities on a resume that interviewers look for, such as good work ethic, motivation, and team work. People who are involved in volunteering are viewed by most businesses as being good citizens.

The following information is provided to answer your questions about volunteering - click on the titles below.

Rewards and Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering is a rewarding way to gain experience and self-confidence. You can make connections all while giving back to the community. Volunteering offers ways to work with people of all ages, businesses, and organizations. The work may include use of organizational skills, interpersonal skills and construction. Volunteer work may also involve travel, when desired. Volunteering creates exposure and sparks career interest. It helps add skills to your resume. It can also deter you from choosing the wrong career.

Volunteer work provides a purpose and productive activity for those that have been laid off from work. It offers experience while giving you a rewarding feeling.

Volunteering does not typically offer a paycheck. But volunteers may receive tax credits for costs. Travel expenses may be deducted as long as they are strictly volunteer, such as: gas, meals, lodging and transportation, and even tax deductions.

Volunteering Builds Skills Employers Want

Businesses are aware that it is not easy to find steady work. When looking at resumes they may focus in on volunteering experience, especially if you have not recently held a paying job. Employers may look at volunteer experience for:

Leadership Experience
What did you gain during your experience. Did you create a program? Lead other people? Organize an event?

People Skills
Did you have to work with others? Did you team-up with other volunteers or with individuals? Employers do consider who you volunteered with.

Volunteer experience often requires a person to give up some things. Or think more about the needs of others. Many volunteers work with at-risk persons. This type of service requires sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others.

Personality Factors
Every business wants to find a person with personality that fits into their work place. They look for someone that will be productive and work well with others. Businesses also look for someone who is assertive. Your volunteer experience may reveal that you are a person who can work in many situations. It can show that you can work with many different people.

Group Mindedness
Were you able to work with others to achieve your goals? Volunteers often work in groups. You may have volunteered with people you know, such as church groups or friends. You may have volunteered with people you met on the job.

Often, volunteers work with organizations that support causes they believe in. The most important aspect of volunteering is working as a team to meet goals. Employers may take note of how long you stayed with one organization to find how dedicated you were to the goal.

Include Volunteer Experience on a Resume

Each person brings different experiences to a job interview. To set yourself apart from others, include your unique skills and qualities on your resume. Volunteer experience is productive experience, which has its own section of a resume. Do not use "Volunteer" as a job title. Use the actual job you did as the title. Your title often serves to describe the work you did. When you describe the work you did, you should include what you learned. Describe the different leadership roles you had.

Decide Where to Volunteer

While all volunteer work benefits the volunteer and society, it is important to consider your goals. When you are trying to get a position in a certain industry, you should find volunteer positions in that same industry. If your goal is to learn new skills, look for volunteer positions that will help you get the skills you need. If your goal is to have more experience in a certain career field, then you need to match your skills to that interest.

Commit and Manage Your Time

Commitment is the key to a positive volunteering experience. Whether you volunteer for an hour a week or multiple days of the week; be sure to keep your commitment. When you make a commitment to volunteer, other people are relying on you.
  • Do not make a commitment you cannot keep.
  • Do not over commit. Only commit to the time you can always be there. Start slow to gain a better understanding of the organization. Learn about the way it operates and its goals.
  • While most organizations are eager to take on volunteers, they must be cautious when taking in people who are donating their time. They may ask you fill out an application. They may also ask you to attend an interview to learn about your qualifications and background. This is a chance for you to make sure that your goals and interests are the same as the organization's. Keep in mind that some organizations have responsibilities to protect those that they work with, like children and at-risk populations.

Create a Plan and Volunteer

There are some key items to consider when developing your plan:
  • Determine your purpose for volunteering.
  • Decide on the goals you want to achieve by volunteering.
  • Based on your goals, what are some potential volunteer sites?
  • Learn about the vision of potential volunteer sites. Try to find one that matches your own vision.
  • Contact prospective volunteer sites. Arrange a meeting or interview.
  • Find out what will be involved and expected of you during your volunteer time.
  • Determine a schedule you can stick to.
  • Decide how long you plan to stay with the organization.
    Important: Once you decide on a schedule for volunteering, treat it like a work schedule. Be consistent. Be sure to call in advance to make any changes. Remember that the longer you volunteer in one place the more connections you make. With more time, you have more opportunity to accomplish your goals.
  • You should always contact a volunteer organization before you visit. Learn about the organization first, to find out what you can do for them.

Volunteer Requirements

Everyone has talents and skills. Therefore, anyone can make a great volunteer. There are opportunities for every age, but most volunteer programs are for people age 16 and older.

Many organizations do include children and teenagers. But, elementary-aged or middle school-aged students interested in becoming a volunteer may need the help of a parent or other adult.

People with disabilities volunteer for the same reasons as those who are able-bodied. The main reason is to develop new relationships and gain networking opportunities. Personal satisfaction can also be a benefit, as is the opportunity to hone marketable skills.

A study conducted by the Points of Light Foundation found that persons with cognitive, visual, learning, emotional, hearing and seizure disabilities are all capable of volunteering. People with disabilities can be involved with many projects, such as physical labor, child care or teaching.

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  • Statewide Interest

    Serve Illinois

    Serve Illinois The Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service has developed the Serve Illinois website so you can easily find information about:
    • AmeriCorps,
    • Senior Corps,
    • Learn and Serve Program,
    • volunteer programs
    • resources for volunteers of all ages,
    • how to sign up for training opportunities
    • service day events in your area.

    Find a place to serve by selecting an area of interest or by using a ZIP Code search. Click here. External link opens in a new windowYou can also call (800) 592-9896 (voice) or (888) 261-2713 (tty).

  • Senior Corps Volunteer Opportunities

    Senior Corps logo Volunteers in Senior Corps receive guidance and training so they can make a contribution that suits their talents, interests, and availability.

    There are several ways to get involved in Senior Corps External link opens in a new window, including being a foster grandparent or a senior companion. Choose where and how you want to serve.

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