Before the words leave my mouth, I can hear my workshop attendees thinking, “Why should I work for free?” I hear you. It sucks working hard and not getting paid for it; but read what I’ve got to say before you condemn volunteering to find work.
An article, Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment Report, praises the act of volunteering, claiming that one’s chance of obtaining employment is 27% higher than by not volunteering. The article points out Social and Human Capital—strengthening relationships and building skills—as two major outcomes of networking.
I elaborate on these assertions and offer three additional outcomes of volunteering: it creates a positive outlook, makes one feel productive, and closes gaps in employment on your résumé. So you naysayers, read on.
1. Volunteer to network for your next job. It opens potential doors because you’re in a place where you can do some real-time networking. Choose an organization or business in the industry in which you’d like to work.
If marketing is your forté, for example, approach an organization that needs a graphic artist or publicist to design some art for their website or write a press release or two.
This organization where you’ve managed to get your foot in the door can help you with leads at other companies, especially if you do a smashing job. The president or owner will want to help you because you’ve come across as competent and likeable. Who knows, you could possibly join the company if a position opens up…or is created.
2. Develop or enhance skills that will make you more marketable. You’ve had it in your head to start blogging but haven’t had the time to dedicate to it. The company who took you on as a volunteer in their marketing department not only can help you network; it can give you the opportunity to enhance your diverse writing skills.
Your approach to management might be to offer starting a blog for them, as the rest of the marketing department is up to their elbows in alligators. They gain a talented writer to write entries, and you learn the fine art of blogging.
3. Volunteering is a great way to do a positive thing. You may consider choosing an organization where your efforts are meaningful in a big way.
A customer of mine said she volunteers at a soup kitchen because she has a soft spot in her heart for the less fortunate.
She’s a bookkeeper, so I suggested that she also offer to do the books for her church. While she’s helping the less fortunate at the soup kitchen, she could also keep her skills sharp through volunteering at her church.
4. Feel productive. Instead of sitting at home and watching The View, you can get back into work mode.
Do you remember work mode? It begins with getting up at 6:00 am, doing some exercise, leaving for a job from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, all the while feeling productive. When you get home from volunteering, you can watch those episodes of The View on DVR.
I tell my workshop attendees that one of the ways to stay sane during unemployment is by getting out of the house, and I repeat this three or four times until I know it’s embedded in their brains. As simple as it sounds, volunteering gets you out of the house.
5. Volunteering will pad your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Yes, employers look at gaps in your work history. When an employer asks about your three months of unemployment, you can proudly say you’ve been volunteering at Company A in their marketing division.
There you authored press releases, created their newest website designs, and started them on your way to a new blogging campaign. Of course you’ll indicate on your résumé, in parenthesis, that this experience was (Volunteer) work. Nonetheless, it was work.
There is concern among LinkedIn users about how to indicate they’re looking for work. Of four possible ways, I list volunteering as my preferred way to indicate you’re in the job hunt. Read the article if this is one of your concerns.
Any time you feel slighted for working without pay, remember why you’re doing it; to network, develop or enhance new skills, do something positive, feel useful, and pad your résumé. If these five reasons aren’t enough, then by all means stay home and watch The View.
Photo: Flickr, Technical Resources