Volunteering Offers Many Plusses during Job Search

by on May 9, 2012

Volunteering Offers Many Plusses during Job Search

One of the questions my clients sometimes ask me is how should they treat their volunteer experience when it comes to their resumé?  This is true in particular of those who have been searching for paid employment for a long period of time.  I encourage my clients to include their volunteer experience on their resumé more often than not.  To me it is difficult not to see experience gained while in a volunteer position as anything but a positive.

While ideally you may have hoped to be working in a paid position, a volunteer position, particularly one that uses skill sets that are of value in a job position you are seeking, can be invaluable.  It is far better to be best portrayed in work you are doing as a volunteer, as opposed to staying idle for a long period of time between jobs and seeing your skills not used at all.  Those in charge at your volunteer position may become valuable references for you as you are interviewed by companies as part of your search.  Additionally, a volunteer position may give you an opportunity to learn skills or technologies you did not have an opportunity to use when you were in previous jobs.  If a prospective employer asks you are you familiar with those skills and technologies, you can say that not only you are, but that you have practical experience in using them.

Beyond the resumé itself, volunteer work has many other advantages for the job seeker.  It allows one to make additional contacts.  One never knows who a contact in a volunteer position may know that may be able to provide them a referral to an employer looking for the skills you possess in a paid position.  Your volunteer work helps you build a portfolio of that which you are capable.  When going on job interviews, you may be able to share some of what you’ve created as part of that portfolio with a perspective employer.  Some organizations have both paid positions and volunteer positions.  By volunteering, you may be able to show an organization with whom you are working what you can do.  When a paid position in their company opens up, they already know what you can do, and don’t have to go through the arduous process of learning it through a series of interviews.  If you are really good and productive at what you do, an organization could even decide to add a paid position to bring you into their company part-time or full-time.

There will be those who may say doesn’t time spent as a volunteer actually take you away from your time of doing a job search?   If the essence of your job search is to spend it online all day behind a computer screen, looking for potential openings and applying for those for which you have the qualifications, then volunteering will actually help you.  A job searcher who does not get out and make contact with other human beings and make others aware of their desire to seek paid employment, is only lengthening their search.  Most people hired for jobs make their contact into firms by either being “networked in” or making direct contact with perspective employers.  In addition, one often has to show they are an “insider” who has exhibited knowledge in a particular profession.  Volunteer opportunities have the ability to offer the job seeker all of these possibilities.  Even the most intensive job seeker needs to change up the patterns and approaches to their search.  The volunteer work one does actually becomes a part of the search process.

Therefore, if you are in search, never be ashamed of the volunteer work you are doing.  It is likely not only helping a cause that can use your abilities, but is often actually strengthening your candidacy for a potential future position.  If you are in search and particularly if you have been in search a long time, consider taking on a volunteer position.  It may not meet your immediate financial needs as part of finding your next job, but the non-monetary benefits it will provide you may go a long way in helping you land that next position.

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