With free time on your hands due to un- (or under-) employment, it might be time try a new job-seeking strategy that is both fun and opportunistic. You may already know that volunteering makes you feel good, but what you might not know is that working for free could lead to your next paycheck. Here are five ways volunteering puts you ahead of the pack:
Explore your interests. With millions of job-seekers out there all competing for the same positions, the last thing you want to do is start down a career path only to realize that it is not a good fit. Volunteering at various organizations is a no-pressure way to explore your interests without a long-term commitment. Be strategic in choosing an organization, finding one that falls in line with what time of work you hope to do can help you determine exactly what it is you want (or don’t want) for your career.
Build your resume. Whether you have no experience, too little experience, or the “wrong” experience on your resume, volunteering can help you fill in the gaps. Once you identify the career field you would like to pursue, begin taking part in activities that double as “on-the-job training” in a particular skill set. Have a degree in child psychology but have no face-to-face time with kids? Find an organization that works with children so you can add hands-on skills to your resume. Remember, experience is valuable whether you are compensated for you time or not. Treat your volunteer job as if you were getting paid to do it and don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation letter once you have a good relationship the organization.
Be the first to know. When a position opens up within an organization, job opportunities are usually first circulated internally to staff and volunteers. If you are interested in working for a particular agency (or an affiliated one), being involved in a volunteer capacity could put your name at the top of the prospect list.
Network. Most nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteer assistance and community support to operate successfully. Supporters often include community leaders, public figures, and local business owners. You never know who you might connect with while working a charity function or serving on a planning committee– especially if you are working with an organization that falls in line with your career goals. Building rapport with those in your volunteering network and making it known that you are on the lookout for new career opportunities could put you on the path to your next job interview.
Build character. Volunteering is a great way to get involved and make a difference. Donating your time to a worthy cause also shows an employer that you are a committed, dedicated, and hard-working GGG! Bonus: doing something good for your community can provide you with all the feel-good endorphins you will need to stay on top of your job search.
Instead of sitting at the computer and waiting for an opportunity to appear in your inbox, take action! Need help getting started? Check out these sites for info and resources on finding the perfect volunteer gig:
Rosalyn Wik graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 and is the Finance Director at a private nonprofit organization. She currently resides in Destin, Florida.