How Volunteering Can Help Your Career in Public Service

If you're interested in pursuing a career in public service, a great way to prepare for that career is by volunteering. Whether you choose to volunteer at a nonprofit, charity or government body, the benefits you'll reap from doing so could have many positive effects on your future. Here are five major benefits to volunteering that you should consider when planning for a career in public service:

1. Volunteering Will Give You a Chance to See What it's Like to Work in Public Service Without the Commitment

If, for example, you are interested in working for an organization like the ASPCA, volunteering at a local animal shelter near you will give you some insight into what the organization is doing and what it is hoping to accomplish. Shelters are often in need of volunteers to help clean the facilities, as well as to assist in taking care of the animals, and the odds are that if you find you like volunteering at a shelter, you will also appreciate working at the ASPCA.

2. Volunteering Provides You With Important First-Hand Experience That You Can Use On Your Resume When Applying For a Job in Public Service

Both non-profits and governmental agencies often have employees who are overwhelmed with the red tape and paperwork that is involved in keeping their organizations open. Due to this problem, volunteers are often thrust into the more “hands-on” roles that very closely mirror those that regular employees handle on a day-to-day basis. In homeless shelters like New York City's Ali Forney Center, for example, volunteers cook meals for residents and interact with homeless teenagers by relating about the day’s events, playing games and providing an extra set of hands to the staff on duty. Such direct experience is invaluable when applying for jobs in the public service sector.

3. Volunteering Allows You to Build Confidence and Self-Esteem While Working With Others

One of the hurdles that people who enter the public service field sometimes struggle to overcome is interacting with the public. Dealing with different personalities coupled with the struggle for resources can often be challenging for new employees. By volunteering at an organization like a food bank (where you come into contact both with those who are donating food as well as those who are receiving food), you can learn how to relate to others before you are employed.

4. Volunteering is a Great Way to Network and Get Recommendations for Future Employment

If you haven't worked before, but know that you would like to work in the public service sector, volunteering at an organization that is similar to the one you would like to eventually work for is a great way to get an insider's recommendation. Because resources are often limited, many of the organizations that work in the same area of public service are not only familiar with each other, but often times work together in order to accomplish similar goals. A recommendation from an organization that does the same type of work as the one you hope to be employed by is a great way to set yourself apart during the application process. If you choose an organization that is a large umbrella for other organizations, like America's Promise (which partners with the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America and the YMCA/YWCA of America), the odds are that the recommendation you get from someone on staff there will carry more weight at one of the organizations that fall under their umbrella.

5. Volunteering Will Promote Valuable Talents and Skills That Will Help You in Your Chosen Career in Public Service

People who are looking for work in the public service sector are often coming from unrelated career areas. Volunteering can help you develop the skill set you need to excel in the career of your choice. Organizations like Habitat for Humanities, for example, provide the knowledge and hands-on experience that is necessary to its volunteers in order to accomplish their goal. If you already know what organization you would like to work for, it's a great idea to volunteer for an organization that will train you as you go. After you've volunteered for a while, you'll find yourself much more prepared for a future in public service. You'll have a better idea as to how things work, and you will know what to expect when you are finally functioning in the capacity for which you've been trained. And perhaps you'll even discover that you've made a few new friends along the way! This article was written by Social Media Outreach Coordinator Logan Harper on behalf of CAREEREALISM-Approved Partner, 2U — an education technology company that partners with institutions of higher education such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which provides an Masters of Public Administration online. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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