Having trouble finding a job? If so, you might consider working for free.
According to University of Massachusetts professor emerita Varda Konstam, lead author of a new paper due to be published in the Journal of Career Assessment, young people who volunteer, even for “a minimal investment of time,” are more likely to land work within six months than their non-volunteering counterparts.
As TIME reports, Konstam and her team looked at 200 young adults and found that the correlation between volunteerism and speedy job procurement holds true across various industries and demographic groups. And it’s a pretty strong correlation. Nearly three-quarters of those study participants who didn’t volunteer were still looking for work six months later, while nearly half of those who pitched in someplace for two or more hours per week had already landed steady employment.
Why the connection? In these days of “degree inflation,” TIME’s Martha C. White writes, when college diplomas are becoming increasingly common, academic accomplishments alone aren’t enough to show potential employers you’re worthy. It helps to have some meaningful real-world experience under your belt, and if you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling to find paid work, volunteering is a terrific way to get it.
“Volunteering activities provide opportunities for emerging adults to master specific skillsets and to demonstrate proof of competency and value,” Konstam writes in her paper, according to TIME.
What’s more, volunteering might expedite the job-search process by cluing you in to what kind of work you’re truly interested in. Are you a one-on-one type of person, or do you do well in groups? Perhaps you’re best suited to something you never would have thought about while fulfilling the obligations of your college major.
“It is possible that by increasing social contacts, volunteering promotes an open-minded approach toward different careers,” Konstam writes.