According to a LinkedIn survey, 41% of nearly 2,000 professionals said that when evaluating candidates’ resumes, they consider volunteer experience to be equally as valuable as paid work experience. Yet only 45% of the candidates surveyed actually included volunteer experience on their resumes. Whether your goal is to get experience for an outside job, or to obtain a paid position within the volunteer organization, here are some simple Do’s and Don’ts for using volunteer work to boost your career.
Using volunteer experience to get a new position in your current field, or change careers:
Do’s: choose a volunteer position based on both skills AND interest; use volunteer work to fill time gaps between jobs; be sociable to ensure that you make positive contacts.
If you are unemployed, try to use your professional skills in your volunteer work. Seek out organizations that need people with your skills. On the other hand, if you want to enter a new career field, look for opportunities that give you the chance to acquire new skills, as well as learn first-hand about the field you are interested in. For example, if you think you might like to be a vet tech, volunteer in an animal hospital or shelter. Whether your goal is a new job in your current profession, or a completely new career, volunteering will ensure there are no gaps in your resume, and gives you the opportunity to make valuable contacts and references.
Don’ts: labeling work as “volunteer” on your resume (focus on the job title or tasks instead); overly restricting yourself (broader horizons = broader experience and contacts); quitting when you find a paid job (volunteering is good for your soul, not just your career!).
Turning a volunteer job into full-time employment:
Do’s: Be patient, be professional, be committed, and be open that you are looking for full-time work.
If your goal is to land a position within the volunteer organization, then it pays to be the ultimate professional – and upfront about your desires. “Volunteers or interns are frequently the first people considered, because it’s already apparent whether they will fit well, have a good work ethic, and meet the qualifications of the job,” writes Steven Pascal-Joiner and Meg Busse in The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers.
Don’ts: overpromising on skills (manage expectations carefully so you don’t disappoint), trying to be top dog (keep the ego in check!), grumbling about money (makes you look insincere), not believing in the cause (another sincerity-killer).
Sparked.com and VolunteerMatch.org are two good places to start searching for solid volunteer opportunities. As Nicole Williams, Connection Director at LinkedIn and author of the career guide, Girl on Top, notes, “When you have a competitive labor market, and a hiring manager has 10 to 15 equally qualified applicants, volunteering can be the thing that ends up differentiating you and getting you over the line.” So get out there and help others – you may just help yourself, too.
For more ways to enhance your career or find great job opportunities, ask the experts at Triumph Services!