Volunteering is getting a good rep for being a great way to network. Putting down a year or two of volunteering experience shows HR staff that you’re a team player who cares about others. It doesn’t really matter if you tutored groups of inner city youth or sat by yourself and updated database spreadsheets—volunteering is equal to caring about people. If it is a real experience and you can talk about it enthusiastically, you’re more than a leg up past the competition.

Non-profits are in need of volunteers. Perhaps people haven’t caught on, or maybe it’s because only those that actually do care are able to keep it up. Whatever the reason, there’s a need to be filled and more than a little to be gained out of stepping up to be that person.

Want to save the rainforest or Bengal tigers?

Whether you’re interested in saving animals, people or the earth, there’s a non-profit out there for you. However, if you’re looking to work in a no-kill pet shelter, be prepared for possible waiting lists since they’re some of the most popular places for students.

If you’re wondering what to do with your newfound humanitarianism, there are a few ways to choose the non-profit that’s right for you. The first place to look is your career services department. If you’re a recent graduate, don’t hesitate to call them. If they can’t assist you, they’ll certainly point you in the right direction. But likely, they’ve seen countless volunteering opportunities run across their desk and haven’t had enough students to fill them.

Even if you’re attending an online university, you should still check with your career services department. They’ll be in touch with national charities or may be able to match you up with a general non-profit theme based on your major, skills and talents. They may also be able to suggest roles that you could fill within local organizations.

Where to find the volunteering role for you

Websites like Volunteer Match can also help you identify your talents and where they would be best used at. They’re a great resource, but there are typically local ones as well that are easily accessible. And it’s a good idea to talk to your local United Way or even your local library to tap into a network of non-profits.

If you think you’re unable to volunteer because of monetary concerns, contact your local chapter of AmeriCorps, an umbrella program that houses different chapters. Each chapter has a focus and may work with many different agencies or may be dedicated to just one non-profit. Those who serve with AmeriCorps get a monthly living stipend and an education reward upon successful completion of their term. If you’re not certain you can stick with something, AmeriCorps probably isn’t the right avenue for you, since the education award is a large motivator for most people. It can be used toward loans or directly sent to colleges.

You still have to sell yourself (just not as hard)

When you go to contact a non-profit, be prepared to sell yourself. They may take anyone to hand out food at a pantry, but if you want to apply your major and be more useful (as well as more marketable), you’re going to have to prove you’re worth the training and the responsibility. It’s the volunteer opportunities that line up with your major that are going to be the most useful.

If you can show that you’re going to be an asset, there are organizations that will be willing to give you opportunities to gain the experience that you need showcased on your resume. If you go in with a nonchalant, ‘I’m just here to fill my time’ attitude, you’re going to be scrubbing up vehicles or mopping the floors. Just like any form of work, you want to show optimism and initiative.

Volunteering not for you? Check out 3 Hot Tips to Finding the Job You Love instead!

Author: Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He writes on behalf of and has a keen interest in business blogging and social media.

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