How volunteering can help you gain new skills

Are you looking for a new direction in your work life? Do you feel like you need to make that next step? Sometimes you need a little extra something to get over that next hurdle. The answer could come from volunteering.

Volunteer work can broaden your experience and exposure to life where work can’t or doesn’t. Ask friends, family, and colleagues who volunteer. They’ll tell you that volunteering adds depth to their lives.

Case Study

Shelley Falzon completed her Masters in Communication at age 39, but had no work experience on her CV. At the end of her degree Falzon volunteered for a communications role at Volunteering Victoria. It gave her the opportunity to try out her theoretical skills in the real world, and perhaps more importantly, gave her hands on experience in social media marketing.

“I learned how to update social media channels using Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Hootesuite applications.” She landed a three-day-a-week paid job with Volunteering Victoria as a result.

Perhaps the opportunities at your current workplace are waning, or you’ve always wanted to do something different. Maybe you’re at a career plateau or you simply need a change. Volunteering offers a space in which to gain new skills, connect with new people, experience something different, and give back to the community.

It can also enable you to affirm or explore your own passions. A bonus is that it might even have a professional payoff thanks to increased skills or opportunities through your new network.

“Increasingly, the skills developed through volunteering are being valued by employers,” says Amanda Robinson, SEEK Volunteer Manager. “It also enables you to explore your own passions.”

Gain new skills

Supercharge existing skills

Volunteering also offers a way to re-connect with the working world after a break, and an opportunity to supercharge your existing talents. Unlike paid work, the requirements for volunteering are more likely to be linked to your passions and interests, rather than extensive work experience.

There are a huge range of skills you can acquire through volunteering, starting with:

  • Industry-related skills
  • The ability to work in a team
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving and adaptability
  • Communicating with clients and stakeholders
  • The ability to plan and prioritise work
  • Sales skills
  • Time management
  • Report writing
  • Improved interpersonal skills.

Remember that the soft skills you will learn volunteering are also highly desirable to employers, says Brett Wilkinson, Chief Executive of Volunteering Australia.

Planning makes perfect

Treat your volunteer role search as if you are looking for a paid job, says Joe Powell, Managing Director of SEEK Employment & Learning (Australia & NZ). “Analyse your next career step. Do an inventory of your existing skills, find out what is missing and then seek out a volunteer role that will help plug the gaps.”

You’ll find a wide variety of volunteer roles advertised on SEEK Volunteer, says Powell. “There’s something for almost everyone and some of the roles come with training.”