Volunteering is an opportunity to experience new skills with new people. During a period of joblessness, it may also be your link back to employment. Use volunteer work to connect you to your next job opportunity.

What are the benefits of volunteer work to create your future job?

1. Current work experience

What does the work experience section of your resume tell your future employer? If you are out of work, there may be a glaring gap. Volunteer work is a valid and respectable way to fill the break in your chronological resume. Whether your unemployment length is 2 months or 2 years, offering your talents to a non-profit organization keeps your experience up to date.

Volunteering qualifies as work experience, though you’ll want to be careful how you describe this position. Employers know the number of people out of work, but still expect to be told where you earned your paychecks. Some volunteer positions don’t need explanation, such as, “Offer extensive organizational capacity on Board of Directors.” To clarify a less obvious volunteer position, try: “Event planning and fundraising, volunteering up to 40 hours a week.” This moves “volunteer” out of the title and into the description.

Employers want to see motivation present on your resume, and your volunteer work will provide proof.

2. Enhance your skills

When you volunteer for a new organization, you give them the benefit of your unique talents and create an opportunity to enhance your profile. You may be an excellent organizational manager. To keep your experience current, help to organize an upcoming event, offer to streamline the process with creative ideas, and be a valuable support for the event directors. Learn about event planning and fundraising, as well as meet other volunteers with valuable insight or even employer connections.

If your talent is working in construction, you can offer to work in a place like Habitat for Humanity. If accounting is your focus, non-profits and community organizations always need treasurers and accounting experts. In each situation you will discover a valuable exchange of knowledge.

3. Create new contacts

As you become involved in your volunteer work, you will meet new people. Your enthusiasm to contribute in a meaningful way will rub off on people you meet, who again may be contacts for future paid work.

Be open to other volunteers about your situation. Don’t say, “I’m just volunteering until I find a job.” This devalues the work both you and others do for the organization. Say, “I’m not currently working, and want to use this opportunity to bring my talents to a new organization. Perhaps I’ll learn something new, and I may discover paid work along the way. I hope to continue this volunteer work once I begin a new job.” Other volunteers will be more likely to offer you job leads if they know (1) You are looking, and (2) You want to continue volunteering when the new job starts.

4. Increase your current life satisfaction

You may volunteer to fill the gap in your resume, but if you find an organization you feel passionate about, and a position you feel confident about, you may discover personal satisfaction spilling over into your life. With purpose in your routine, your attitude will brighten. And that attitude can help you get a job.

Stay busy volunteering during unemployment and you could discover a renewed sense of purpose, a full resume, and a link into a job.

Leigh Harris has been a career and personal development coach for 15 years, 5 years in nonprofit organizations. In her spare time she volunteers, with satisfaction, for two organizations. Visit her her website http://www.leigh-harris.com/
 
This was originally posted on http://nejs.org/

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2 Comments

  • Vasudha Posted February 21, 2011 9:53 pm

    I totally related to this when I read it. I quit my job to stay home with my children about 10 years back and once my older one started to go to school I volunteer very actively at school and have figured out all the great skills I possess which were not being used in the previous job.
    I thoroughly enjoy being with the kids and might work towards being a teacher.
    Volunteering is truly powerful!

  • Leigh Harris Posted February 22, 2011 11:25 am

    Vasudha,
    It is wonderful you volunteer with your children's school – it has a powerful effect on them too.

    And I agree with you, there is so much you can do as a volunteer which you don't have the opportunity to do under employment. Organizations love volunteers with your enthusiasm! Let me know as your thoughts progress towards teaching.

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