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Study: Volunteering Helps With Job Prospects

By Patrick Sullivan - July 2, 2013

Volunteering can increase the chances of finding a job by 27 percent as a result of growing your social network and expanding your work experience. New research presented in “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment,” a study released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), suggests that rural volunteers and those without a high school diploma might benefit even more from volunteering.

Though unemployment for those who did not graduate high school was more than 11 percent as of April 2013, survey respondents without high school degrees were 51 percent more likely to have a job at the end of two years if they were volunteering, according to the study. Rural volunteers also benefit greatly: they were 55 percent more likely to have a job if they volunteered at the end of two years.

The authors of the study suggest that volunteering increases two metrics likely to land them jobs: social capital and human capital. Job seekers who volunteer are able to build a network of contacts that may lead to employment leads (social capital), as well as learn new skills and knowledge and gain work experience (human capital).

The under-educated may have more to gain than high school graduates because they may start with fewer skills and a smaller social network. “Individuals without high school degrees are less likely than those with more education to have social networks that can assist in finding employment,” wrote the authors. “Individuals with low levels of human capital, such as lower levels of education and less work experience, may benefit more from the increased skills than those with higher levels of human capital.”

The study looked at Census Bureau and Department of Labor Statistics survey data from 2002 through 2012. It grouped 70,535 unemployed respondents age 16 and older into 10 cohorts of two years each, then looked at if the respondents had a job at the end of the second year. Compared with the rest of the data set (about 61 million over 10 years), those who were unemployed and volunteering during the two years had a 27 percent higher chance of being employed than those who were unemployed and not volunteering.

“The overall association remains consistent across each year of the study period and different unemployment rates, suggesting that irrespective of economic conditions volunteering may add an advantage to the out of work seeking employment,” according to the report.

The authors stop short of determining that volunteering leads directly to employment, citing “severe limitations” to the study and the data set. “Though both individuals with a history of volunteering and those who volunteered after being out of work had higher odds of finding employment than those who did not volunteer, it is possible that by measuring volunteering we were actually measuring an unobserved factor such as motivation,” wrote the authors. Additionally, the study looks at general trends of employment; there is no correlation between volunteering at an organization and getting a job with that same organization.

Even so, the value of volunteering to job seekers shouldn’t be discounted. “However, even in this situation, volunteering could bring added benefits to employment outcomes, to the extent that it can foster motivation and opportunity,” according to the study.

Volunteering can increase the chances of finding a job by 27 percent as a result of growing your social network and expanding your work experience. New research presented in “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment,” a study released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), suggests that rural volunteers and those without a high school diploma might benefit even more from volunteering.

Though unemployment for those who did not graduate high school was more than 11 percent as of April 2013, survey respondents without high school degrees were 51 percent more likely to have a job at the end of two years if they were volunteering, according to the study. Rural volunteers also benefit greatly: they were 55 percent more likely to have a job if they volunteered at the end of two years.

The authors of the study suggest that volunteering increases two metrics likely to land them jobs: social capital and human capital. Job seekers who volunteer are able to build a network of contacts that may lead to employment leads (social capital), as well as learn new skills and knowledge and gain work experience (human capital).

The under-educated may have more to gain than high school graduates because they may start with fewer skills and a smaller social network. “Individuals without high school degrees are less likely than those with more education to have social networks that can assist in finding employment,” wrote the authors. “Individuals with low levels of human capital, such as lower levels of education and less work experience, may benefit more from the increased skills than those with higher levels of human capital.”

The study looked at Census Bureau and Department of Labor Statistics survey data from 2002 through 2012. It grouped 70,535 unemployed respondents age 16 and older into 10 cohorts of two years each, then looked at if the respondents had a job at the end of the second year. Compared with the rest of the data set (about 61 million over 10 years), those who were unemployed and volunteering during the two years had a 27 percent higher chance of being employed than those who were unemployed and not volunteering.

“The overall association remains consistent across each year of the study period and different unemployment rates, suggesting that irrespective of economic conditions volunteering may add an advantage to the out of work seeking employment,” according to the report.

The authors stop short of determining that volunteering leads directly to employment, citing “severe limitations” to the study and the data set. “Though both individuals with a history of volunteering and those who volunteered after being out of work had higher odds of finding employment than those who did not volunteer, it is possible that by measuring volunteering we were actually measuring an unobserved factor such as motivation,” wrote the authors. Additionally, the study looks at general trends of employment; there is no correlation between volunteering at an organization and getting a job with that same organization.

Even so, the value of volunteering to job seekers shouldn’t be discounted. “However, even in this situation, volunteering could bring added benefits to employment outcomes, to the extent that it can foster motivation and opportunity,” according to the study.

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