May 1, 2003
Launch a new career with volunteer skills
Special to NWjobs
When I met Sarah, her very first question was "Do you think anyone would hire me? I've never worked a day in my life."
Sarah had never been paid, but she was quite accomplished. She had organized major fundraisers, special events and large three-day conferences. She had recruited helpers, secured corporate sponsorship, planned agendas and coordinated catering for hundreds, all through her community activities. Until our career counseling session, Sarah didn't feel that her skills would have value to a potential employer because she hadn't been paid for her work. That was far from true. When she sent out her resumé outlining all the event planning she had done, employers started to call. Sarah got several interviews, and within a few weeks began a great job at a starting salary just over $38,000. I did advise her to take a crash course to build her computer skills. She later told me that she'd never have kept the job if she hadn't taken that extra step to begin mastering MS Office and database management.
Volunteerism might just help launch your next career.
Gaining marketable skills - paid or unpaid - is essential. Cynthia dreamed of being a magazine writer. She started out working on newsletters for her service club, wrote free write-ups for her town's weekly paper, and eventually got a few paid assignments that lead to her being a writer for national magazines including Cosmo, Bride's, and Ladies Home Journal.
People unhappy in their fields often choose to volunteer in completely different areas. New skills mean better opportunities -- Promotions often come about because you show the initiative to learn something new. You may have acquired the opportunity at your job, or from an outside organization.
Jim comes to mind. He had a 20-year marketing career but he'd spent much of his free time working on environmental causes. He lobbied legislators, worked on writing position papers and made dozens of contacts. At 48, he went to law school and today works as a lobbyist in Olympia.
Darren was a military firefighter who volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. He gained management experience working on several building projects. He showed exceptional talent in coordinating manpower and materials. Upon leaving the military he found a great job as project manager for a major developer.
Linda was a banker who truly loved to entertain. She hosted many parties for friends and family. Occasionally she volunteered to prepare holiday meals at a homeless shelter. She signed up for cooking classes and earned a reputation as a fine chef, eventually opening her own prosperous catering business.
"We value many kinds of experience," Maria, an HR manager, says. "And we appreciate a person who has shown initiative through volunteer activities to obtain it." Donna, a Senior Vice President, said, "Women tend to disregard life skills -- scheduling, budgeting, organizing events and charity work. Planning a fundraiser and having 200 people turn out is a significant achievement. It demonstrates management leadership that's definitely needed in today's workplace."
More than half of all US adults volunteer in some capacity. But acquiring new skills doesn't just happen. Carefully select volunteer situations that add to your resume and will make you more marketable. Whenever possible, work on committees or projects where you can learn from a mentor. Being selective is the key to insuring your skills will grow and lead to more career opportunities in the future.
Robin Ryan has appeared on Oprah, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, CNN, CNBC and is considered America's top career coach. She is the best-selling author of: 60 Seconds & You're Hired!; Winning Resumes; Winning Cover Letters, and What to Do with the Rest of Your Life. She's the creator of the highly acclaimed audio training program Interview Advantage and The DreamMaker. Robin's passion is helping people find better jobs which she successfully does through her career counseling practice where she offers individual career coaching and resume writing services. A popular national speaker, Robin has spoken to over a thousand audiences on improving their lives and obtaining greater success. To purchase products or contact Robin visit her Web site at www.robinryan.com.
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