VolunteeringMaybe you’ve heard about LinkedIn’s new feature, the Volunteer Marketplace. It launched on January 14th to a fair amount of fanfare and generally positive press and reviews. I’m a big supporter of volunteer efforts and understand their importance to many civic and charitable institutions in our community. In some cases they are the very lifeblood. Like so many of you, I know personally how satisfying it is to give back, whether it’s doing something completely new and different or perhaps putting your professional skills to work. Volunteering in and of itself is reward enough but did you know that it can help you professionally?

As a company, ATR International supports various causes and organizations in a variety of ways and supports the individual efforts of our employees as well, so I am always interested in championing other efforts to promote volunteerism. Anything that makes it easier to connect a need with a solution is a good idea. Some may grumble about nefarious hidden purposes on the part of LinkedIn but I prefer to take a positive view of it. LinkedIn reports that the addition and growth of the volunteer/non-profit space came in response to user feedback. According to LinkedIn for Good’s (their charitable arm) Meg Garlinghouse,

“Two years ago, we added volunteer work and causes to LinkedIn profiles, because we heard a lot of member feedback that they want to include their social impact as part of their professional identity.”

In 2012, the company introduced Board Member Connect, designed to put non-profits in need of board members in touch with those willing and qualified to serve. This past summer, LinkedIn began piloting the Volunteer Marketplace before formally launching it this year. LinkedIn reports 3,000,000 users have added volunteer information to their profiles since 2011, and 600,000 have identified themselves as interested in volunteer opportunities since last August – willing to be contacted and presumably searching opportunities now that the capability exists. The listings are somewhat modest to start but expected to increase. Some have noted a few blips with the ease of accessing the site and a few other functionality issues but these will likely be addressed soon.

So how can this help you get a new job? Well first off, hiring managers consider volunteer work as valuable as paid work experience. That’s really important! LinkedIn’s survey reports that 41% of hiring managers feel this and a recent Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey showed that:

  1. When evaluating a job candidate, experience gained through skilled volunteering would be taken into account (81 percent)

  2. Skilled volunteer experience makes a job candidate more desirable (76 percent)

  3. Skilled volunteer experience makes a college graduate more desirable (81 percent)

These are impressive numbers and underscore the real value volunteer work can bring to your job search. It’s a potential way to stand out and differentiate yourself from other candidates. Volunteering can be a way to keep yourself up to date during a period of un- or underemployment, a way to learn new skills to supplement your existing experience, and an opportunity to network with both those running the organization and other volunteers. With all those chances to shine, how can anyone doubt the power of volunteering to help you in your career?

LinkedIn isn’t the only company linking volunteers with opportunities. Taproot Foundation of San Francisco brokers partnerships and pro bono projects between companies and nonprofits. Catchafire is a New York group that helps people design projects for charity. Both have worked with LinkedIn as it researched and designed its marketplace and both are listing jobs on the site. As I said, anything that facilitates volunteering is good in my book. Check them all out!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International

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