Why you should volunteer your journalism skills

In this digital age, landing a job has become more difficult. Here, SPJ’s Katie-Leigh Corder considers how volunteering can help you in the job market.

In a society where both new and seasoned journalists are expected to keep up with the digital revolution and competition, feelings of being overwhelmed are commonplace. How are you expected to land a job if:

  • You just graduated and don’t have any years (or decades) of professional experience
  • The skills required include either a few or ALL of the following: produce videos, manage social media, write stories and blogs, build graphics, build a rocket ship to the moon, etc.
Volunteering can help you not just in improving your skills, but also improving your network too. (Photo: Pixabay)

Volunteering can help you not just in improving your skills, but also improving your network too. (Photo: Pixabay)

That’s where volunteering for just a few hours a week can save you in more ways than one.

According to a Forbes article, “The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that promotes volunteerism, tracked more than 70,000 jobless people between 2002 and 2012 and found that those who volunteered had a 27% better chance of finding a job than those who didn’t.”

My first journalism-related, volunteer experience was with Citiwide Pre-Vocational Center in Washington, DC, which seeks to improve and foster employment opportunities for low-income families in the metro. I had a quick email and phone interview with the founder and became the Social Media and Website Coordinator from 2012 to 2013. While there, I cleaned the website’s HTML and CSS, managed social networks, and designed a new logo for them.

Another experience involved volunteering at Fuzzy Faces Refuge in North Carolina, which provides a sanctuary for common and endangered animal species and works to promote safe interaction  with humans. While volunteering, I helped maintain their website and social networks, photography and videography, and even helped market a few events.

According to this article from US News and World Report, volunteering can increase your morale, grow your network, upgrade your resume, teach you new skills or improve on existing ones, and even help you choose a career.

Every time I had an interview with a company during or after these experiences, the interviewer would be very interested in my volunteering background. Those experiences became a unique part of my background and helped me land two different jobs after college. Volunteering also helped me increase my network and skills.

In addition, volunteering makes people feel good about themselves because they help without expecting anything in return. People donate their time and efforts to a non-profit whose mission they believe benefits society.

According to a post on the blog of Harvard Medical School: “Participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others—not to make themselves feel better.”

The author in Colorado Springs, Colorado earlier this year. (Photo via the author)

The author in Colorado Springs, Colorado earlier this year. (Photo via the author)

Searching for a job right out of college can be hard and challenging. You may be left with feelings of low self-esteem as well as a fear of the unknown, but volunteering can benefit you!

According to a study from the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK, volunteers have lower levels of depression, enhanced well-being, and are more satisfied with life. There’s also evidence “of an approximately 20 percent reduction in mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, I recommend the following sites to get started:

Also, if you don’t already have an online presence (aka LinkedIn), I would recommend creating a profile so you can easily share it with prospective non-profits.

Regardless of whether you’re just starting out in your career or are a seasoned journalist, you should consider volunteering your journalistic skills as it will benefit you in some way. I couldn’t wait to help at events or to promote content for the non-profit because I knew I was benefiting their mission while expanding my own skills and network!

Katie-Leigh Corder is a SEO & Audience Development Specialist at F+W Media in Fort Collins, CO. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011 with dual bachelor’s degrees from the School of Journalism and Media and the Department of History and is originally from Oak Island, NC. She’s been a member of SPJ since 2014 and loves the Society’s JournCamp trainings! You can interact with Corder on Twitter or through her website.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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