If you are looking for a career change or a new job, don’t overlook the importance and value of volunteer experience. It can be time well-spent, resulting in new opportunities to learn and grow. It’s also a fantastic way to gain exposure to a new group of people and expand your network, both professional and social (read our tips for successful socializing).
If you are not already volunteering, here’s why you should:
- to build relationships with new people you might not otherwise meet
- to market yourself by showing your skills, intelligence, and helpfulness to a new group of people
- to show that time between jobs was well-spent
If you ARE volunteering (yay, you!), here’s how it can help further your career:
- add new connections to your network — this can lead to new clients, or new referrals or references, or even open the door to other jobs or a new career
- learn about other workplaces and industries and how things are done at other organizations — all valuable skills to apply to your current job or to help in finding a new job
- help you determine just what your “ideal job” might be through hands-on experience and learning about the specifics of other people’s careers
- experience new responsibilities you may not get at your current job; for example being treasurer or bookkeeper, over-seeing and managing other volunteers, handling marketing and promotional materials, etc.
- “beef up” your resume with volunteering experiences and successes, and enhance job interviews with new topics to discuss
- renew your interest in work and career — if you are feeling “burnt out”, the change of scenery, faces, and the different pace may help you see your career in a new light
To find the right volunteer opportunities for you, there are several approaches. Some experts suggest looking for smaller charitable groups, where your contribution can make a bigger difference. But others say to choose groups with goals about which you feel passionate — ones that will really motivate you to be engaged. Only you can make the best call on your approach. But know that the opportunities either way are practically limitless.
An obvious way to find out where volunteers are needed is to reach out to groups that are already part of your life. Ask about upcoming events or projects that need volunteers at:
- your kids’ school
- the local running store
- the animal shelter
- your church
- your neighborhood association
- a local museum
These online resources are another great place to start (you can limit the search to your specific city):
Volunteer Match “We bring good people & good causes together”
Corporation for National and Community Service
Don’t think of volunteer work as an entirely separate entity from your own career. With the right attitude and approach, they can enhance each other — it’s a win-win situation!