Americans are doing less of this one thing that will help you get a job

February 28, 2014
February 28, 2014

Volunteer work can be incredibly valuable to your career, whether you’re seeking your first professional job or a move into management. That message has been sent out by career bloggers and documented by Deloitte and LinkedIn among others. A 2013 study even found that volunteers are 27% more likely to get a job than non-volunteers.

Then why then are so few young people and jobless individuals signing on to volunteer?

New data on US volunteering shows a decline in the volunteer rate for the year ending in September 2013, bringing it to its lowest level, at 25.4%, since data were first collected by Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2002. And 20- to 24-year-olds have the lowest levels of volunteer activity, with only 18.5% giving time to causes.

Only 24.1% of the unemployed took a volunteer spot, and among unemployed men, it was 19.7%. That is below the 26.8% of full-time workers and 31.7% of part-time workers who make time for charity or causes.  The share of jobless volunteers has actually inched up a bit since the recession of 2009, when it stood at 22.9%.

The report did not give a reason for the overall decline in volunteering, or show why women are more active volunteers than men. “Almost always, the most compelling reason for people to continue to volunteer is that they’re parents,” Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector, told US News. People aged 35 to 44 and parents with children under 18 were most likely to volunteer.

Maybe career prospects should be the volunteer fuel. Three-quarters of HR workers will consider an applicant’s volunteer experience when making a hiring decision, and 81% said skilled volunteering would improve a college graduate’s chance of landing a job, according to a Deloitte survey.

LinkedIn added a section for volunteer experience and causes to its professional profiles in 2011, and said 41% of managers said they value volunteer experience as much as professional experience.

What if you have a job and want volunteer work that will advance your career? Join a nonprofit board of directors or serve as a business or career coach.

You can follow Vickie Elmer on Twitter at @WorkingKind. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com

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