Finding the Right Match
- Pick a cause you care about.Even if you're volunteering to enhance your career, you should still pick a place that supports a cause you're passionate about. You're much more likely to enjoy the work if you believe in what they're doing.
- For example, if you love pets, volunteer at a local shelter. If you're an avid reader, volunteer at your local library. Pick something you love and care about.
- Find time to visit the volunteer organization.Usually, the nonprofit will want to meet with you. Be serious, and treat it like an interview. It's also a great time to see the building and meet people. Ask for a tour while you're there, so you can see what goes on behind the scenes. You may find that you love it, or you might decide that it's not the right place for you.
- Choose an opportunity that matches your skill set.Anyone can hand out fliers or serve food, but only you have your specific skill set and experience. Try to find a place where you can put that to good use, as that will help you gain experience and grow your skill set.
- For instance, if you are into graphic design, volunteer to help an organization redesign its website and informational materials.
- Pick a position that will grow skills beneficial to your career path.Even if you can't find a volunteer position that perfectly matches your career path, you can still pick something that will grow useful skills. For instance, if you're going into or already are in business, learning how to manage people is important. Pick a position that will enable you to eventually work on management skills.
- Narrow down your choices.If you don't know where to begin, think about causes you've supported in the past, and see if those organizations need help. You can also ask friends and family for recommendations. Another option is using a volunteer search engine that will match you with appropriate organizations in your area.
Gaining Experience and Skills
- Ask plenty of questions along the way.Actively gain knowledge from other people you're working with by asking questions and asking for help. Also, pay attention to what they're doing and how they're doing it, so you can do it yourself in the future.
- If you're fresh out of school, you likely don't have the experience you need to get a job. Volunteering can be a great way to get that experience, as long as you pick something that helps grow similar skills.
- Take on projects slightly out of your comfort zone.Volunteering is a great way to learn new skills. If you take on new projects, you can learn new things along the way. Once you've found an organization that can use your experience, plug in. The great thing about learning new skills is it can benefit you no matter what level you're at, whether you're just starting out in your career or are well established.
- Networkas you volunteer.Networking is just meeting people and connecting with them. So while you're volunteering, spend some time getting to know both the people you're working with and the people you're serving. You never know when a connection could lead to a job or a career advancement.
- Develop connections as you make them. For instance, when you're getting to know someone, ask if they want to have a drink or get dinner sometime.
Using What You've Learned
- Talk about volunteering around your boss and colleagues.If you've gained new skills through volunteering, don't hide them under a bushel. You don't have to brag about them, but you can bring them up in casual conversation with your boss. That way, they know what skills you are developing, and they may decide to put them to use.
- For instance, if you worked on software for a nonprofit, you could talk about that when your boss asks what you did over the weekend.
- Talking about your volunteering can also be helpful in a company that encourages giving back. By volunteering, you're showing that you care about what the company cares about, and your boss will likely see you as more of a team player.
- Add your volunteering to your resume.Most hiring committees like to see volunteer experience on your resume, particularly if it's career relevant. If it is career relevant, add a description of what you did so potential employers have a good idea of how your knowledge and experience can benefit their company. Volunteering looks good both when you're starting out and when you're looking for a new position in the same field.
- Even if you don't use exactly the same skill set, you can still highlight parts of your volunteer experience that will benefit you in a new position. For instance, maybe you had to manage people, which is almost always a useful skill to have.
- Rely on your network.When you're looking for a job, don't be afraid to talk to the people you've built a network with. They may know of the perfect job for you, or they may even be willing to offer you a position themselves.
- When contacting the person, always remind them of who you are at the beginning of the conversation. You could say, "Hi, Jerry Roberts here. We volunteer together at Helping Hands."
- After chatting with the person, bring up what you need: "Well, I'm calling because I'm looking for a new job. Do you happen to know of any that would fit my skill set?"
- How much you volunteer is up to you. You don't have to volunteer every day or even every week.