If you’re having difficulty finding jobs through more traditional routes, volunteering for a cause you care about is another way to get your foot in the door at organizations you’d like to work for. Here are some ways volunteering can help your job search.
Q: I’m looking to change jobs, but I’m having trouble finding an organization that aligns with my interests and has a role that my talents would fit. Someone suggested I should consider doing volunteer work to make new connections. Would that work?
A: In addition to being a great way to contribute to causes you care about, volunteering can also be an effective path to finding your next job. Here are some of the ways volunteering can benefit you as you search for jobs:
- Expands your network. Whatever kind of volunteer work you’re doing, there’s a good chance that you’ll meet people who aren’t currently in your professional or personal network. As you work alongside them and they get to know you and observe your work ethic, they may give you access to their own network or share an opening at their organization that hasn’t been posted yet.
- Enhances your skill set. Depending on where you volunteer and the type of work you do for them, you may learn a new skill or hone an existing one that will make you more valuable to prospective employers.
- Fills an employment gap. If you decide to leave your current job before you have another lined up, volunteering can help you answer a common interview question: “What have you been doing since you left your last organization?” You can describe your volunteer work and share how you’re learning new skills while supporting the organization’s mission.
- Helps you find your passion. If you’ve always wanted to work in a particular field or on a specific issue, try volunteering for an organization that supports it. This is a great way to test your passion for that issue while contributing to it in a tangible way.
While volunteering, you may learn a new skill or hone an existing one that will make you more valuable to prospective employers.
If you’re already volunteering regularly, consider how you might let people know you’re in the market for a new position. Ask your fellow volunteers about their jobs and interests. Share your own story when appropriate, and if you feel comfortable, ask if they have any suggestions for people you can talk to as you look for your next opportunity.
Incorporating volunteering into your job search strategy is a win-win for you and the organization you volunteer for. Remember to treat your volunteer work as seriously as you do your paying job. This means always keeping your commitments and being a consummate professional.