9 techniques to volunteer your way into a purposeful career

As a job seeker, you know that looking for work can be overwhelming and consuming; consequently, you may feel that volunteering while job searching is not a viable option.

You may feel that your time is better spent undertaking specific job search activities, such as attending informational interviews and networking events or submitting resumes online. Plus, volunteering is unpaid. So what is the value in volunteering while job searching?

When determining the answer to this question, it is important to recognize that volunteering may take many forms – from community involvement that may not be related to your professional objective to unpaid work specifically targeted to your employment goal. And for those of you who do undertake volunteer work while job searching, the act of volunteering may be minimized as unrelated to employment because it is unpaid. You may even find yourself omitting volunteer experience from your resume for this very reason.

However, if you are a job seeker who is willing to volunteer while looking for work, value may be found in the following ways:

1. Networking

Volunteering increases your personal and professional networks, and opens up job lead opportunities while keeping you abreast of current issues in your preferred area of employment.

2. Skill building

Volunteering provides opportunities for you to learn new skills and keep your existing skills sharp in today’s work environment.

3. Career exploration

If you are considering changing career directions, volunteering provides an avenue to explore new careers and to determine whether or not an industry of interest is a good fit for you.

4. Assists with resume gaps

Volunteering can help you fill in resume gaps, especially if you are long term unemployed. Current volunteer work that is directly related to your career objective may be included with employment history on a resume under Professional Experience with (volunteer) in brackets beside the job title. Including volunteer experience in such a way demonstrates recent active engagement in the world of work.

5. Demonstrates character

Volunteering of any type demonstrates motivation, commitment, empathy and a desire to help others. These characteristics are valuable assets many employers consider when making a hiring decision.

6. Opportunity for employment

Volunteering opens up the possibility of employment if an opening becomes available in the organization where you are volunteering.

7. References

Volunteering provides you with current references and is particularly valuable if your references are outdated or unavailable.

8. Self-marketing

Self-marketing is an important tool in your job search. Volunteering provides you with the opportunity to market yourself and to demonstrate your skills and abilities.

9. Improves self-confidence and self-esteem

Helping others can make you feel good about yourself and improve your self-esteem. Improved self-confidence will help you transition smoothly into employment once you successfully secure a paid position.

The reasons for determining whether or not volunteer work is valuable in your job search are numerous and warrant your consideration. However, every job seeker is unique, and volunteering may not be a suitable option for everyone. For those of you who decide that volunteering is a viable option, it can be a powerful advantage in your search to find meaningful employment.

This article originally appeared on CharityVillage’s blog and is reprinted with permission.

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For over 20 years, CharityVillage has been the HR partner for Canada’s nonprofit sector through their online job board, eLearning courses, volunteer and event listings, webinars, newsletters, as well as other resources for nonprofit professionals.

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