If your job search is going to extend into the new year, here’s a resolution that will make a difference: look for a meaningful volunteer job. Volunteering always makes a difference, of course, in the community and for the people whom nonprofits serve. It’s good to know that you can make a difference to others and make a difference in your job search at the same time.
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Here’s what I mean by a meaningful volunteer job. First, make sure that the cause or the work inspires you. It’s important that you feel connected to the work you do, whether it’s your profession or work you’re donating. Without a connection to the mission, you may find it hard to stay committed. Find an organization that does good work (there are many) and that seems to be well organized and well run (there are a few less of these.) You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly by their offices and how easy it is to connect with staff to ask about volunteering. You want to work for an organization that will be able to keep you busy and doing work that matters.
When choosing a volunteer opportunity, choose one that allows you to work at your highest level, using your professional skill set. You’ll be making a more meaningful contribution, and you’ll also be keeping your skills sharp. If you’re a financial professional, offer fundraising or auditing services. If there is no opportunity for you to work with the organization’s finances, offer to teach basic financial skills to the community. If you’re a management or operations professional, offer to write a procedures manual or evaluation system for volunteers.
If you’re in marketing, sales, or a creative profession, organize events or work on publicity campaigns, or update a prospect or media contact list. Nonprofits are stretched very thin, and they usually have a long list of projects they’d like to get to, but never have the time or resources to finish. You may have the expertise to help with awareness campaigns, fundraising, volunteer recruitment or the organization’s website or newsletter. Help the executive director set up a blog or Facebook page or create a social media outreach plan.
Make sure you have a clear understanding with the organization about the terms of your volunteer employment. Create a schedule that allows you to spend up to eight hours a week on projects but also allows you to pursue your job search and go to interviews when necessary. Work that focuses on results, not hours, will give you the most flexibility. Be clear about your timeline; you are volunteering until you find full time employment. You are free to continue your support of the cause after you go back to work, but it may take the form of financial support or attending events rather than giving hours.
Here are the benefits you’ll gain. You will fill in gaps on your resume with meaningful activity (that’s why you’ll want to use your professional experience on the volunteer job.) You’ll also earn the right to ask for a letter of reference from the organization. You’ll be expanding your network of contacts – and fans, if you do a great job.
And a final word about that – do a good job. That means showing up on time, taking the job seriously, and doing your best work. Volunteer work should be approached with the same passion and earnest effort that you’d bring to your next paid job. The good karma you create may pay off in a great job offer this year.
Do you have a story about how volunteering made a difference in your job search? I may feature you in a future post. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.