13 May 2015,

NEW research has found that employers think skills learnt while volunteering are as valuable as those learnt on paid time.

SEEK Volunteer research, conducted in the lead up to National Volunteer Week, found 95 per cent of Queensland hirers view volunteering as a great way to gain experience and skills that can be used in an individual's paid work.

94 per cent also agree volunteering can be a credible way of getting real-work experience, especially for first-time job seekers.

Through volunteering, Gold Coast resident Paul O'Brien gained the necessary skills to start up his own business, Corporate Connectors.

O'Brien was involved in the mediation process of an attempted merger between two local rugby league clubs. As a committee member on one of the clubs, he was asked to sit in on the meetings to voluntarily assist with negotiating the merger for his club.

O'Brien now runs Corporate Connectors, a managed networking company which helps businesses identify possible synergies and joint ventures between business' clients.

The company assists with negotiations, potential business mergers and joint venture structures for businesses Australia-wide.

"Queensland and Gold Coast Rugby league asked for our clubs to create a merger to assist the development of Rugby League in the area," says O'Brien.

"From meeting one, we were all learning about the processes and negotiation skills required to work towards a win-win situation.

"You've got to do research to see what success will look like so you can aim for the most equitable solution to both parties.

"I put that experience to work every week in my current role, and the skills gained from this situation was invaluable to my current working environment."

Head of SEEK Volunteer, Amanda Robinson (pictured), says the research puts hard facts behind what SEEK has been saying for years, that volunteering constitutes real-work experience.

"Volunteering can provide huge benefits for those people looking to not only give back, but also further their professional career," says Robinson.

"It offers new challenges, a new network of peers and a different work space, which can provide the perfect environment to learn new skills or build networks in areas of interest."

Volunteering experience also paints a much clearer picture of a candidate's personality and core values, according to the research. Being motivated (56 per cent), socially responsible (42 per cent) and proactive (42 per cent) were the top three personality traits associated with Queenslanders who have volunteered.

Ninety-four per cent of Queensland hirers view relevant volunteering experience as an advantage during the interview process, with 87 per cent believing it can be the deciding factor in choosing between two candidates for a job.

"There's so much competition for jobs that the only way to shortlist applicants is to look at what differentiates them," says Robinson.

Eighty-six per cent of Queensland hirers recommend candidates volunteer in a relevant area at some point in their career to gain valuable experience and help give them a competitive edge.






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