Strategy in Volunteering to find that next Career

In my last post I talked about my own personal story in taking volunteerism to a full-time career.  In today’s post I’ll be a little more general and give some specific strategies you might use to get some “take” as you “give” in your volunteer work.  Please do not construe this post as an encouragement to only volunteer in order to find a job.  I am not saying that at all and if you know me you would understand that is not how I operate.  What I am saying is that there are many facets to the volunteer experience and many of them can be enriching and valuable in the job search. Enough disclaimer, let’s get started.

I see the following as key strategies you can learn from in volunteering:

  1. Learn a new set of skills
  2. Work with different types of people
  3. Gain experience in project management
  4. Foster better selling techniques

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

All volunteers, especially newer or younger ones, get an opportunity to do or try things as a volunteer that they would not normally do in their “real job.”  It might involve working with underprivileged youth, building a home or something completely different.  That is one of the core reasons to volunteer.  You are giving something to the organization or agency and those it serves, typically with no financial return, but you are also gaining many things in the new skills you can and will develop.  We will talk more about this in point 4 regarding selling, but this should be pretty understandable for all.

While you are learning these new skills you will also meet people you didn’t know before.  Many of them will come from roles or companies you know nothing or little about and you will probably forge friendships that will be mutually beneficial.  This just happens, trust me.  I can remember meeting so many people in my volunteer experiences through the years and some of them have even become clients over the past 5 years.  I didn’t go into the volunteering role with that outcome in mind, but it did happen.

When you think about step 1 and 2, these both lead to step 3.  Most work in the non-profit world is project-based work and you will learn more about project management from your volunteer experiences.  You may have never managed a project in your paid role, but you can certainly get involved in a non-profit and learn how to manage just about anything you want to put your hands on.  The nice thing about this also will be that you will certainly have some oversight from the agency to keep you “between the ditches”   so that you don’t foul anything up too badly.

Selling is part of everyone’s role, even if you don’t know this and selling is a major part of every non-profit’s work.  Every organization I have been a part of is always looking for more funding and this development process involves a great deal of selling, both of yourself and of the aims and goals of the organization.  I had never raised a dime before my time at the YMCA in the 1990’s, but I would not back away from asking anyone for just about anything now.    Selling is a gift, but this gift is a developed skill that can grow rusty if you don’t keep it sharp.  A volunteering role may be just the tool to keep those selling skills sharp.

So there you have it.  Being a volunteer can improve you personally and professionally.  The real intent is to help others, but when you do give, you gain so much in return.

What are you waiting for?  Stop reading this now and get busy!

Have a great day.  Go out there and help someone.