Volunteering is not just about looking good on your resume… but it doesn’t hurt. In these competitive times, employers are looking for more than the ability to just show up and get on with the job. They want people with drive and initiative and voluntary experiences can show you’re the kind of person who actually enjoys working and is prepared to share your wide range of skills.
It also enables you to demonstrate your achievements, undertake without a cash incentive.
Volunteering can lift you out of the hole of appearing not to have relevant experience in an area you want to move in to.
- Want to get into drama teaching? Help out at the local youth group.
- Love to be a fundraiser and event promoter? Set up your own project and offer it to a worthy cause.
- Want to be a counselor? Offer your skills as a mentor or big brother/sister.
So you’ve decided to undertake a side project to exsplore whats out there in career options. You’ve got an idea of what you want to do, but there’s nothing like immersing yourself in a new role, sector or alternative world to get a real sense of what it’s like.
Volunteering can enable you to explore various options without giving up your day job. Be open to considering dedicating time on the weekends or after work or even your next annual recreation leave, accumulated long service leave or a leave without pay scenario, or working part-time for this more hands on experience.
Volunteering to Build Career Experience
Volunteering has many obvious benefits … from networking, developing new contacts, immersing yourself in a new industry and strengthening your skills set. In considering where to volunteer, first ask yourself:
Am I volunteering to gain experience and practical skills? or Am I volunteering to contribute the skills I already have?
Being clear about this before you approach any organisations will ensure that both your needs and the organisation’s needs are being met.
Let’s explore a few scenarios: Define what your main reason for volunteering is:
To utilise your current skills in a new sector or industry. By volunteering you’re able to get a sense of how your skills and experience are transferable to this new industry, gain new contacts and expand your networks so that you could eventually move into a paid role.
To learn new skills in an industry you already know well. By volunteering you can offer to provide your current skillset to the organisation, but you’re clear that you want them to train you or provide you with an opportunity to observe and build a new set of skills.
In these scenarios, both you as the volunteer and the organisation are gaining from the arrangement.
It’s important to recognise that an organisation that offers to accept you as a volunteer will still have costs to incur, as they must provide you with appropriate management feedback, supervision and a safe working environment.
The key to a successful relationship is to ensure both parties are benefiting and both understand what they need to do for this to occur. So be clear in negotiating the voluntary role what skills you bring that can enhance the organisation, as well as what new practical, observational, technical, research or other experiences you are seeking.