Don’t have the experience for the job you want? Are you missing the necessary skills? Not sure what career to choose? Volunteering may be the answer!
People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons. It is often looked at as a form of charity, based on kindness and unselfishness. The best volunteering does involve the desire to serve others but this does not exclude other motivations as well. It’s okay to want some benefits for yourself as a volunteer.
What you do in your unpaid time may say more about who you are than what you do for employment. Volunteering makes a statement about your dedication, character, or social awareness, and it can enhance your qualifications for your next job. So if you are:
- Seeking your first real job upon graduation, it is to your advantage to show volunteer work on a resume demonstrating interests beyond the classroom.
- Returning to the paid work force after some time away, your volunteer activities prove that you kept yourself sharp and involved.
- Wanting to change careers, it may be your volunteer work in the new field that will tell a prospective employer you’re worth the risk.
As you ponder the idea of volunteering make sure to take enough time to find the one that best suits you. Start by considering the following before you take the volunteer step:
- Take a personal inventory. Ask yourself about your motives for volunteering. What are your interests? What skills can you offer? Consider your schedule and availability.
- What are your expectations of a volunteer position? What would you most like to learn by volunteering? What don’t you want to do as a volunteer?
- What skills and experiences are you looking for that would help you in future jobs? Are you willing to participate in a training course or do you want to start volunteering immediately?
Investigate possible volunteer “employers” as you would for paid positions. Be sure that you have found the right volunteer job for the right reasons. Here are some tips to consider:
- Educate yourself about the company— look up their web site and pick up any brochures and handouts. Ask questions of staff and other volunteers. Take a tour of the employer if possible.
- Discuss with the employer your motivation and interest in volunteering. Interview with the person that is actually responsible for determining the appropriateness of potential volunteers.
- Ask about written job descriptions and length of commitment. Inquire about training opportunities.
After you’ve gained the experience then use it! Obtain documentation of your experience with job descriptions, performance evaluations and letters of recommendation. Put it on your resume or application.
Network! Ask for a referral from your volunteer supervisor. Most employers are well connected in the community. If you do a good job for them, they’ll be more inclined to recommend you to paying customers. Word will get out.
Last but not least, discuss your volunteer experience with prospective employers during the job interview. Surveys made to employers show that they are willing to consider volunteer experience in the hiring process yet many applicants don’t include it during the interview. If your volunteer experience was meaningful to you, it will come across that way in the interview. It is important to include the following:
- Talk about relevant activities and accomplishments, and identify specific skills you utilized in your volunteer position.
- Be prepared to present copies from your documentation portfolio to supplement your application and resume.
- Speak with confidence and enthusiasm about your experience. Share challenges and growth experiences. If you devalue the experience, so will the interviewer.
Don’t hesitate to put all your experience to work for you. If you don’t have the experience necessary to obtain your dreams and goals then get some! Find the right place to volunteer. Both you and the employer will benefit from the experience.
Visit us on the main floor in Bldg. 2, Rm. 115