The Value of Volunteering

What are you doing to get a job?

I’m sure that many of the answers include: updating the résumé; contacting references; checking newspapers, job boards, etc. for job postings; reconnecting with current and past contacts for job leads; and preparing for interviews.

Don’t get me wrong, those are all integral to any job search.  There’s one activity that is often overlooked, though — volunteering.

“But how can volunteering help me?” some job-seekers may question doubtfully. “I need to find a paying job.”

Yes, while that is true, volunteering can be a means to that end.  Some of the benefits that volunteering can have for an individual conducting a job search would be:

  • Using your skills or developing new ones.  With the recession continuing on, it is proving to be more of a challenge to move quickly into another position with a new company.  Becoming a volunteer allows you to keep your skills current.  You could also look for a volunteer opportunity that will help you develop skills in an area that will nicely complement the experiences you already have, thereby making you more marketable.
  • Adding new contacts to your network.  Volunteering is done by people from every walk of life, so you never know who you might meet when you volunteer, or who they may be connected to.  Say you are a graphic designer, and someone you meet while volunteering happens to be the spouse of the head of marketing of a big company.  That connection may have never been made but for volunteering.
  • Showing that you care. Volunteering demonstrates that you care about something beyond yourself.  This is a salient point because for companies to be successful, they need team members who are passionate about their work.  Volunteering shows that you possess the kind of passion that will help a company be successful in achieving its goals.

Volunteering can either be on-going (i.e. once a week, twice a month) or episodic (going once or twice to help with a special project).  Even participation in a special event hosted by a nonprofit organization is beneficial because you took some of your personal time to lend your support to a cause.  For example, a cause that my husband supported this year was Special Olympics through his participation in the Polar Plunge.

Where should you volunteer?  That decision should be largely based on your interests.  Maybe you like carpentry.  If so, Habitat for Humanity might be right for you.  Maybe you have a loved one with dementia.  The Alzheimer’s Association might be a good place to volunteer since there is a personal connection.

If you are at a loss for where to volunteer and what type of volunteering you are looking for, your local United Way may house a volunteer center that acts as a clearinghouse for nonprofits’ volunteer opportunities.

Why not give volunteering a try? It just may end up leading you to a great job.

Does your job search feel like it’s stuck in neutral? Hit a road block with your career? Learn more about working together to jump-start your success!

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