I am guessing that you are reading this post because you are considering what you can do to make your resume, your Linked-In profile and your network move into top gear and give you that competitive edge in a tight job market. So why would you possibly want to take time “away” from job seeking activities (and relaxation to recover from job seeking activities) to spend your time volunteering. Well, keep reading!
Volunteers are 27% more likely to land jobs than non-volunteers based on solid research from the Corporation for National and Community Service, ( a US Federal Agency) published in 2013. The impact is even greater on those who are starting careers, those who have limited networks or those who have limited education. Although the study didn’t identify HOW volunteering helps people get jobs, there are many testimonials on the web that help identify the benefits of volunteering.
Volunteering feeds a positive mind set. I don’t have to tell anyone who has “been there” how active job seeking for a number of months can undermine your self esteem. What you might not know is that being able to honestly bring a positive attitude into a job interview or into a networking coffee makes a world of difference to your ability to answer questions positively, to stay relaxed and approachable, to show just what a great team member you are, and, ultimately, to land the job.
Volunteering expands your network effortlessly. While many folks just seem to have the gift for meeting new people and broadening networks, there are some, myself included, who find networking tough. Especially because many job seekers incorrectly think of networking as getting to know people just so we can use them for the job search. Of course, using people is not networking at all, and meeting people while volunteering really emphasizes the mutuality of networking. Working on a volunteer project you meet other people who share your interests and who similarly are motivated to give back to the community. What better starting point for knowing each other?
Volunteering can fill an employment gap. Most employers indicate that a job seeker who initiates some type of positive activity while unemployed is more marketable than those who don’t. Volunteering, taking a class to upgrade skills and taking temporary work are alternatives that show that you skills and motivation are sharp. And volunteering can be legitimately listed as a job during that work gap.
Of course, volunteering when you are not committed to following through is a real mistake.
Treat volunteering like a job commitment. Look for a cause you are passionate about, an organization that offers the opportunity to work in an environment (team, solo, mission based, etc.) that is a great fit for your preferences, and a chance to use or hone your skills. Some rote or unrewarding work might be included as a part of the volunteer experience. Just like in the paid work environment your willingness to take on the “whole” job is important to people’s assessment of your volunteer experience. Bring your basic skills: show up on time with a positive attitude. These go a long, long way to transforming a contact you meet while volunteering to a strong member of your network. And remember, you can bring your work skills, develop new skill, and bring your existing network to the cause of your choice. Making a difference in the world is no small accomplishment so expect to be welcomed and appreciated by the organization you decide to work for.