Looking for a new job can be an absolute grind! Especially if you want to change jobs or fields or transition from working in person to a remote job. Maybe you’re getting rejected left and right and just can’t figure out how to make yourself more appealing to prospective employers. 

Instead of feeling discouraged, try a new tactic and give volunteerism a shot. Over the past decade, I’ve had a variety of remote volunteer roles and have found that volunteering has many benefits, both personally and professionally. 

In fact, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, people who volunteer have a 27% better chance of landing a job after being unemployed than non-volunteers do.

Here are nine benefits of volunteering specifically for remote job seekers.

A woman volunteering virtually from a computer in her home office.

1. Gain Experiences in New Fields or Skills

If you’re looking to break into a new job or field, volunteering can be the perfect way to get your foot in the door or try new skills or talents. For instance, let’s say you want to transition careers and eventually get a remote digital marketing job. However, you don’t currently have any experience in digital marketing. Getting a volunteer position in this area with no experience will be much easier than a full-time or part-time position. Then, as you continue to apply for jobs, you’ll now be able to put your volunteer experience on your resume

I can tell you firsthand that this has worked for me more than once! The first time I did this was back in 2012 when I was a volunteer Community Manager. In this role, I managed a Facebook community and trialed a new personal development program. The second time, I volunteered as an entrepreneurship writer and social media manager for a micro-lending organization. 

Both of these experiences came in handy when a freelancing client asked me to take over her digital marketing. Because of these volunteer opportunities, I was fully confident that I could take on this work since I’d already done it, just not in a paid capacity. 

2. Try Out a New Job Without Committing to It Full-Time

The tricky thing about trying a new job or skill is that we often don’t know if we’ll like it or be good at it until we try it. Also, if you have family members to support or other responsibilities, it can be extremely stressful and risky to give up what you’re doing now for something unknown. 

This is another reason I love volunteering—it lessens the stakes. If you try something new and hate it, quitting won’t feel like the end of the world if you’re volunteering, whereas losing your income would make quitting much more difficult, even if you don’t like it.

3. Use Volunteering to Fill Any Gaps in Employment

Whether you freelance or work for a company, many people lose clients or get laid off. If this is you, you might worry about having a gap between jobs. In this case, finding a volunteer position in your field or doing a related job can be a good way to keep your skills fresh, fill your time, and boost your resume

When it comes time to add this to your resume, you can choose whether to use the word volunteer. If potential employers specifically ask you about it, you never want to lie. However, you don’t necessarily need to write the word volunteer on your resume; you can simply state your position and list your duties or responsibilities. 

4. Build up Your List of References or Letters of Recommendation

If you hate asking people to be references for you, you’re not alone. This can be especially tricky if you have a difficult boss or primarily work independently and don’t feel like you have many people you can even ask. 

Since you are not being paid as a volunteer, it’s entirely reasonable to ask a supervisor at your volunteer workplace or even a fellow volunteer to be a reference. Of course, if you’re going to ask, make sure that you’re working hard and doing a great job so that they can speak candidly about you and will have positive things to say.

5. Get a Remote Volunteer Job if You’re Looking to Start Working Remotely

I’ve been working remotely for a decade, and I’ve been asked in interviews or on calls with clients if I have experience working remotely or have worked on a remote team before. If you haven’t worked remotely before, volunteering can help you get remote experience that you can share with future employers. 

Remote work isn’t for everyone, so this is also a good test to see if you like it and want to do it on a more permanent basis. It can also give you time to adjust to working remotely and managing your schedule.

Another possibility is finding a community service opportunity that will allow you to go hybrid, doing some of your work in person and the rest remotely. 

6. Learn to Use New Software and Other Online Tools

My early remote volunteer work helped me to learn more about online tools like Zoom, Google Suite, Teams, Pinterest, Instagram, and others. While we use most of these every day now, 5-10 years ago, they were newer to me. Learning these in a volunteer capacity lowered the pressure and helped me increase my self-confidence with learning new technology tools.

As you look for remote jobs, pay close attention to the software and tools mentioned in the job descriptions. If you aren’t familiar with them, you can possibly learn them in a volunteer position. Or, if not, you can always take the initiative and try them out on your own. 

This can also be your chance to improve your intangible skills like problem-solving, developing your teamwork skills, or becoming a better listener. 

A woman volunteering remotely from a laptop in her home office.

7. Grow Your Network and Make New Connections

We all know that networking is one of the best ways to find a new job, but most of us hate doing it. As you volunteer, don’t be shy about telling people in your volunteer workplace that you’re job hunting; you never know who they might have in their social network who could help you. 

If you’re more of an introvert and shy away from networking, this can keep you in regular contact with new friends and enhance your social skills. Even though this isn’t easy for many of us, it can be good to get out of our comfort zones and try new things. 

You might even find yourself making new friends and building your support system. I can share firsthand that I met one of my best friends through a local literacy volunteer opportunity. This can also be the perfect way to meet others with common interests. 

8. Improve Your Mental and Physical Health 

You might be surprised to know that volunteering offers many health benefits and mental health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteers have better physical and mental health and also exhibit lower rates of depression and anxiety compared to non-volunteers. Even as a remote volunteer, you can combat loneliness and social isolation while working on a shared activity. 

If you work for an organization that you genuinely have a passion for, you’ll feel a natural sense of accomplishment and sense of pride as you work on your tasks, no matter how trivial they might be. This can also be helpful for stress reduction and well-being if work or areas of your life are especially stressful. 

9. Get Out of Your Head and Focus on Someone Else

As a job seeker, you probably spend more time than you care to admit in your head. A few years ago I was going through a challenging season of life. During that time, online volunteering gave me a sense of purpose and even helped boost my mood and self-esteem as I realized how much I excelled at the work I was doing.

Sometimes, we just need to take an hour or two out of our week to help someone else. To help others is one of the best feelings in the world and is truly one of the intangible benefits of volunteering.

Benefits of Volunteering Wrapup

While most remote job seekers overlook volunteering, you can see many benefits of volunteering in terms of health outcomes, life satisfaction, networking, and building your skills and talents. 

If you’re unsure where to start, the Volunteer Match website has thousands of options. Remember, not every opportunity will be a perfect fit, and that’s normal. If the first one doesn’t work out, don’t worry—just jump back in and try something else.

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