October 14, 2010
How to volunteer your way to a job
If you're a job seeker, volunteering is a great avenue to donate your time to a worthy cause while being able to fill in gaps on your resume and network with people who may help you eventually find paid employment.
Too many times I see job seekers disappointed because what they thought they would get from their volunteering didn't match their expectations. When I carefully examine the scenario, I mostly see strategy problems. Before you set out to volunteer, keep these three points in mind:
Pick a cause you believe in. If you don't, others with whom you're working will sense that your efforts aren't genuine. You can get a list of associations and non-profits on the Seattle Networking Guide.
Decide whom you'd like to meet. Most non-profits and associations have their board of directors listed. Take a look at United Way of King County, for example. If you would like to meet Dan Brettler, chairman and CEO of Car Toys or David Bley, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, or Colleen Brown, president and CEO of Fisher Communications, this would be a good venue to try to meet them.
Make sure to leverage your expertise. While serving food or cleaning a room may be a useful or kind act, both you and the organization can benefit the most if you engage in activities aligned with your experience, expertise and education. Sharing your knowledge or doing consulting-type activities not only helps the cause, it also helps you put meaningful information on your resume.
To find a volunteer role appropriate for you at a particular organization, first do some research to find out the primary goals and initiatives of the group. Then, identify the primary connectors inside the organization and who the event organizers are.
Once this research is done, you'll need to connect with the right folks to find out the most appropriate volunteer opportunities available. Most times, if you communicate your expertise and articulate what you are able to contribute, they can create a role for you or keep you in mind as positions open up. Also, keep in mind that once you pick your preferred group, association or non-profit, you have to actually commit enough of your time to make an impact.
Do a great job in the role you're assigned, and most importantly, take the time to connect with those whom you targeted when creating your initial strategy. Remember, Seattle is a small town. Many of the folks involved are full-time employees of companies for whom you might want to work and they'll see your volunteer work ethic and form impressions of how you'll potentially function inside their businesses.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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