In this job market, I can think of no better way to boost your chances of success than volunteering. The general headings that follow come directly from the article I mention above, and I encourage you to read the original using the link above. Below, I lay out the same benefits as they relate to your job search.
Learn or develop a new skill
The job market has not been so competitive in generations, and candidates with current, market ready skills remain in demand. So – what’s preventing you from building out your skills? In a word – nothing. Volunteering provides a great chance to develop a new skill or even learn something new you really like and enjoy. Being in career transition is absolutely no reason to stop you from learning something new. And volunteering can provide numerous opportunities to stretch yourself. You can planning and implementing a major fundraising event, you could hep with a web page, you could develop data bases and reports, you can even train or teach others. Do you need supervisory skills to reach that next job? Do you need to learn some specific applications or programs like Flash, or Access? Here’s a chance to lead a program or initiative or learn those new programs and applications. These are just a few examples of new skills you can learn or improve in a volunteer setting.
Be part of your community
We are advocates of networking to your next position. In this market, it really is the best way to find that next great opportunity. But too many people looking for a new job treat networking as a means to an end. That’s really too bad, because your contacts, friends and professional resources (i.e. your network) ought to be something far more important than that. You ought to be thinking about these people as a community to which you now belong. This broader sense of “belonging” and engagement will have long term, positive benefits. As I’ve said before, it may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to relaunch a career. Volunteering in your community and giving back helps cement this concept both for you and in the eyes of the people around you. Volunteering moves you from a place where you are in need to a place where you are giving. It’s a much better place from which to launch a job search campaign.
Motivation and sense of achievement
“Fundamentally, volunteering is about giving your time, energy and skills freely. Unlike many things in life there is choice involved in volunteering. As a volunteer you have made a decision to help on your own accord, free from pressure to act from others.” I love this direct quote from the 2005 article. This outward, external focus on the world is a very healthy thing. One of the real issues we confront after losing a job is a loss of purpose. We normally get up, go to work and have a huge part of our day filled with tasks and things to do at work. Now what? Volunteering really helps fill that void by providing a sense of purpose to our daily activity and as we accomplish things, we also enjoy a sense of satisfaction and achievement. These are very healthy feelings.
Boost your career options
Here’s some data from directly from the article:
A survey carried out by TimeBank through Reed Executive showed that among 200 of the UK’s leading businesses
a. 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without,
b. 94% of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills, and
c. 94% of employees who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted.
Have you thought about exploring a whole new career? If so, volunteering can provide a great way to explore career options. Try volunteering at an organization closely linked to possible career alternatives. Looking at the medical industry? Are there hospitals that could use a helping hand. You may need to get a little creative to find some things, but volunteering can be a great way to try out something new with little real risk.
I am a big believer in the value of experience as a teacher and guide. Our careers frequently catch us in a rut of the same experiences and the same routine. Volunteering can be a great way to get out of this “comfort zone” and seek out totally new experiences. Think about this a minute in job search terms. Ultimately, who gets hired? It’s the person who – with the right skills – feels like the best “fit” to the hiring manager. Whether we lie it or not, there is a social element to landing a new job. So we want to present ourselves as open to ideas and able to bring a variety of life experiences to the problems we face at work. Wide ranging experiences also help us with conversations. Face it – people with lots of interesting experiences are simply more fun to talk to, and that’s a part of the successful search end game – being liked and sought after by a hiring manager. So – get out of your shell, find a volunteer activity at a new and different place and see what you might learn!
Meeting a diverse range of people
I can’s paraphrase or re-work the article to improve its message for us in a job search, so here it is:
“Volunteering brings together a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Both the recipients of your volunteer efforts and your co-workers can be a rich source of inspiration and an excellent way to develop your interpersonal skills. Volunteering also offers an incredible networking opportunity. Not only will you develop lasting personal and professional relationships but it is also a great way to learn about people from all walks of life, different environments, and new industries. Networking is an exciting benefit of volunteering and you can never tell who you will meet or what new information you will learn and what impact this could have on your life.”
Well – yes. I believe that’s right!
So – what’s holding YOU back? Volunteer!