As many informed job market observers have discussed, over the years, volunteering one’s time can provide a great many benefits in a job search context.  It can lead to quality new relationships and networking opportunities.  It can build your confidence and help you learn new skills.  It can take your mind off your own employment trials and tribulations for a short while.  And lastly, of course, let’s not forget that it can also really make a difference in the lives of others — and help you keep your own situation in proper perspective.

One of the challenges involved in volunteerism, however, is that outside of a few sites like that aren’t terribly well known, many people struggle to line up some good avenues in which to donate their time, energy, and professional talents.  Sure, it’s a safe bet that virtually any non-profit organization out there would embrace any type of volunteer offer with open arms, but this approach is pretty unfocused and doesn’t always unearth the types of opportunities most professionals are seeking.  Aside from just donating time and money to support the basic functions of an organization, I think most job hunters would hope, instead, to contribute their expertise at a higher level — helping fix a distinct professional problem or challenge that a worthy organization might be wrestling with.

LinkedIn to the rescue!  For those who haven’t yet heard, LinkedIn just announced the launch of a new “volunteer” feature that will provide a platform for non-profits to solicit and be partnered up with suitable professionals willing to donate their time and talents.  Oddly, however, none of this new functionality seems mentioned directly on their site yet — at least that I can find.  I’ve only been able to access it through a series of links that were contained in the company’s recent press release about the feature.  Here they are, for convenience:

•  To read about the new Volunteer feature and what it involves, click here.
•  To add a “signal” to your profile, actively letting organizations know you’d be willing to volunteer some time, click here.
•  To read an interesting third-party study citing the correlation between volunteering and getting hired, click here.
•  To post a volunteer opportunity on LinkedIn, click here.
•  And lastly, to search for potential volunteer opportunities near you, click here.

Editor’s note: As of the time of this posting, there is currently only a single opening listed in all of Washington State; hopefully this will change quickly!

All things considered, it will be interesting to see where this functionality leads and whether it really takes off in the months to come.  Granted, it’s early still, and this program was only just launched, but I fear that unless this new volunteer feature gets directly featured on the site in a more visible way — and possibly turned into a main menu item — many members (and non-profits) will never get around to discovering it.  Still, you can all use the direct links above to become “early adopters” and get a sense of what it’s all about.  Enjoy!