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Looking for a job? Try volunteering!

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Question:

I keep hearing that volunteering and internships are great ways to find a new job. But as you may have noticed, those options don’t pay. Why should I work for free? I need a job!

Answer:

That’s exactly why you should volunteer.

When you volunteer or do an internship, you meet new people. Those people can turn into networking buddies and references, and possibly even your new boss.

Everybody can be valuable as a networking partner. Everybody knows somebody else. Everybody has information. They’ll probably be happy to share with you if they know what you need. But they only know what you need if you tell them. That’s the essence of networking.

The person you’re working with at the Habitat Re-Store may know the department manager at Nymeo whom you’re dying to meet. Your fellow intern at Enterprise Rent-a-Car may go to church with a friend of the hiring manager at the company you’d love to work at. The volunteer supervisor at Frederick Memorial Hospital may have a contact in her book club who knows the single piece of information that will get you your next job.

In addition, you’ll probably be building new skills as you volunteer. If you can do so in the area that you’re hoping to work in next, you’ll have an opportunity to practice them before you have to demonstrate them to a hiring manager. And you’ll have a reference who will verify that those skills are yours.

Here’s the final and most compelling reason that you want to volunteer, even without pay: according to Greg Baldwin, president of Volunteer Match, volunteering improves your chances of finding a job by 27%. In addition, he says, 41% of survey respondents consider volunteer experience to be just as important as paid work experience. And 20% of hiring managers have offered jobs based on a candidate's volunteer experience.

In addition, when you volunteer, you’re usually doing something close to your heart. In that sense, you certainly are being paid, just not in money. But sometimes being paid in experience and network enlargement is just what you need.

About the Author

Beth Davis-Reinhold

Beth Davis-Reinhold is an instructor at Frederick County Workforce Services, where she has worked for over 20 years. She teaches job search seminars and basic computer skills. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer, and is Internet and Computing Core Certified (IC3). Beth has been a member of Toastmasters International for more than 15 years, and is an Advanced Communicator Silver. A graduate of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Beth has also studied American Sign Language for many years. In addition to many sundry projects for FCWS, Beth writes its “Ask the Career Coach” blog.