August 9, 2013
With a nationwide unemployment rate still above 7 percent, it remains important for job seekers to stand out in the sea of applicants, whether they are members of the U.S. armed forces returning to civilian life, recent college graduates or one of that group experiencing long-term unemployment. Volunteering could be one option.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, a new survey from Deloitte showed that skills-based volunteering -- such as helping a nonprofit with finances -- enhanced the likelihood of job applicants landing an offer. According to the survey, Deloitte interviewed college seniors, military personnel and HR executives to find out how skills-based volunteering affected hiring decisions as well as to explore the value that HR executives placed on this type of volunteer work. Results showed that more than three out of every four HR executives took an applicant's skilled volunteering experience into account. Seventy-six percent said that volunteering made a job applicant more desirable. Volunteering was slightly more beneficial for college graduates and servicemen, with 81 percent and 78 percent of HR executives, respectively, saying it made the candidate more employable.
Yet, despite the challenges of landing a job, most college grads and military personnel do not consider volunteering at a nonprofit as a way of developing or boosting their skills. According to a Deloitte press release, less than half of college seniors (46 percent) and military personnel (48 percent) said they thought of volunteering as a way to land future employment. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal noted that, according to 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, less than 20 percent of unemployed Americans ages 20 to 24 volunteered.
"It is clear that the skills and experience gained through volunteering offer a competitive edge," said Evan Hochberg, national director of Community Engagement at Deloitte Services LP, in the press release. "However, when more than half of college grads and returning veterans don't consider volunteering to improve their employability, there is work to be done to help them see the upside of volunteer bridging as a viable job search option."
Deloitte's survey supports previous research illustrating the benefits of skills-based volunteerism, including findings from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). In June, Forbes reported that the CNCS tracked more than 70,000 unemployed individuals between 2002 and 2012 and found that those with skills-based volunteer experience increased their chances of landing a job by 27 percent.
"These reports provide strong evidence that volunteering is beneficial for jobseekers," said CEO of CNCS Wendy Spencer in the Deloitte press release. "Whether serving in AmeriCorps or sharing your professional skills at a nonprofit, volunteering can provide skills, contacts, and leadership qualities that make you stand out in a competitive job market."
In addition to developing important skills that make job-seekers more marketable and giving them opportunities to expand their network, Forbes noted that volunteering also helps lift a job seeker's spirit, which is especially important during a prolonged job hunt, when staying motivated can be essential to finding a new job.
Though volunteering is indeed beneficial, Forbes stressed that it is important to find an opportunity that is meaningful and leads to an experience that is aligned with professional goals. In other words, do not just sign up for anything; take the time to find the right fit and look for opportunities that offer greater responsibilities such as leadership roles or board positions.
"Problem solving and gaining perspective are not unique to one sector," said Hochberg in The Wall Street Journal.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Deloitte Survey: Skills-based Volunteering Increases Employability, But Overlooked by Most College Grads and Returning Vets," deloitte.com, July 31, 2013
"Executive summary: 2013 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey," deloitte.com, 2013
"How Altruism Could Help Get You Hired," blogs.wsj.com, August 7, 2013, Anita Hofschneider
"Proof That Volunteering Pays Off For Job Hunters," forbes.com, June 24, 2013, Nancy Collamer