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Volunteering your way to a job?

Career Exploration The Hiring Process The Local Job Market

Question:

I’ve been hearing that if I want a job, I should volunteer somewhere. But I don’t have time to volunteer! I have to look for a job! Why should I volunteer?

Anwer:

Believe it or not, volunteering is one of the best ways to find a job. Here’s why:

  • Volunteering anywhere, even a place where you’re already volunteering, can be a way to fill a gap in your résumé.
  • It shows employers that you were doing something useful with your time between jobs. In some ways, volunteering is even better than paid employment. You aren’t required to do what you do as a volunteer.
  • Many companies give only bare-bones references: “Yes, he worked here from January 2008 to February of 2012, that’s all we can say, goodbye.” No matter how stellar an employee you were, that’s all you get, by company policy. But volunteer organizations don’t necessarily have that restriction; they can brag on you all they want.
  • If you volunteer with a new group, you’ll probably gain new skills, which will look great on your résumé, and will qualify you for new fields.
  • Volunteering makes you smarter, and almost anything that makes you smarter is a good thing.
  • It’s said that over 75% of job seekers find their new jobs by networking. Volunteering gives you new network partners who also care about the things you care about.
  • Adding anyone to your network increases your chance of getting crucial information about job openings, the latest news in your chosen field, new people you’ll want to meet, etc.
  • Volunteering in a new organization gives you new friends and contacts, who can become new references. One of them might be your new employer!

If that doesn’t sound like reason enough to volunteer, consider this: Suppose you interview at the company of your dreams. The interview goes well, but the employer seems a little uncertain. What do you suppose would happen if you offered to work for free for one week, on a volunteer basis? If you have any chance at all, the employer would most likely agree, giving you a one-week opportunity to prove yourself.

You have an opportunity here to do good, and potentially change your corner of the world. The world may well pay you back with a connection to your new job. There really isn’t much of a downside to it. Isn’t it worth taking the chance?