Dear Matt: I know it’s important to volunteer and give back, but how does it really help me in the job search, or with advancing my career?

Matt says: A recent survey by Robert Half found that 41 percent of U.S. professionals said they volunteer, resulting in these benefits:

• Enhanced wellness and productivity at work (61 percent).

• Expanded their professional network (57 percent).

• Gained new skills (49 percent).

• Increased visibility for their company (35 percent).

For managers, volunteering can be a way to boost recruitment and retention efforts while offering a team-building activity, says Jim Kwapick, District President of Robert Half in the Twin Cities. “Volunteering also lets employers know that you are committed to a cause,” says Kwapick. “That passion and drive is something that employers want to see in their employees. It shows you are working to help others, create a better local community, and are committed to bettering yourself — both personally and professionally.”

Also, “volunteering is one of the best ways to network, which remains an essential activity for professionals at all levels,” says Kwapick.

It’s an excellent way to bolster your résumé, especially if you’re a new grad trying to gain experience or an established professional looking to switch careers or gain experience in a new field. While a list of volunteer experience on a résumé isn’t going to get you the next job (unless it’s directly related), it can show more about your personal side. Volunteering can help job seekers meet new contacts that could lead to a new opportunity. For those who may not be searching for a new job, volunteering helps professionals meet new customers and build business contacts. People who volunteer are often passionate about that cause and may have other interests in common.

“You never know when a professional you’ve met through volunteering may become a key contact for a job opportunity or new career path,” says Kwapick.

Want to get started?

• Check with your employer. Many companies have ties to nonprofit organizations or facilitate charitable activities. Other companies offer volunteer matching or grant programs for employees who give their time.

• Find an organization in need. Search for organizations you care about in your community (volunteermatch.org), and then contact them to see how they could use your help. Be sure to explain your particular skills and interests.

• Invite your colleagues to join you. One person can make a big impact, but there could be power in numbers if your co-workers come, too.

• Look beyond the holidays. There are community service opportunities available throughout the year. □