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For many, finding employment in a new line of work can be daunting; especially if you are a career changer or a college student looking to build up your resume. However, by becoming an avid volunteer, you can not only make a difference in your community, you can also build the necessary skills needed to land a job in this unpredictable economy.

Here are some ways volunteering can help your career:

1. Gain experience

Ways volunteering can hel your career: Portrait of a smiling mature business woman at office desk with a computerBeing proactive and creating growth opportunities show employers you value hard work. According to an interview with Nicole Williamsin Forbes magazine, it’s hard for graduates and career changers to gain experience when they are constantly being turned down for not having any. By acting as a volunteer, you can gain experience that will show you are invested in the big picture. By turning your values and passion into action, you demonstrate to your potential employer that you are committed to—and educated about—a variety of issues. It also shows that you value the steps it takes in order to build valuable accomplishments that will prove you have the experience needed.

2. Learn new skills

Volunteering can help you build new skills and can also help you decide if your path is one you really want to pursue. For example, a college student accustomed to doing research for school assignments could volunteer to research an issue or demographic for a nonprofit. By doing this, they prove how they have used the skills they learned in college and they have something tangible to write on their resume. Everyone has skills that they can apply from one job to the other. It’s all a matter of how it’s written on a resume and how you qualify yourself when it comes time to apply and interview for a job.

3. Grow your network

People who are already working in the field you aspire to work in are full of knowledge and are a great source for connections. They also have firsthand knowledge on what may become available in job opportunities, or how to go about taking the next step if you plan to further your education. If you don’t have any connections in a desired field, by placing yourself strategically, you not only surround yourself with knowledge that will help you grow, but it may just put you in the right place at the right time if something comes available. Not to mention, if you prove that you are a valuable worker, the people you work with may be able to put in a good word for you.

4. Explore possible careers

Volunteering allows you to try different rolls, companies and atmospheres. This way, you get an inside view on how departments are run, and how issues are handled.  Of course, by being a volunteer, it isn’t the same as being an employee, but it can expose you to an organization in a deeper way than if you were to just follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Volunteering is a terrific way to get life experience and build accomplishments that can help you qualify for future positions. Whether you mailed flyers to raise awareness for a local charity or built a house with Habitat for Humanity, you gained valuable real world experience through hands-on interaction. Volunteering adds structure to your resume and all those experiences can be formatted in a way that showcase you as a person who accomplished goals.

Overall, if those examples aren’t proof of how valuable volunteerism can be, research proves that being a volunteer can lesson depression and prolong your life. According to an article written by Dr. Sara Konrath, PhD., in Everyday Health, volunteering has been associated with lower depression and increased well-being.

Tell us in the comments how volunteering made a difference in your career!