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You might be surprised to hear that volunteering is not only a great way to give back to the community, but it can also be a fantastic way to make contacts and fill gaps in your experience. Although volunteering is for a cause, your first step is to determine what you need from the experience. It could be to gain a new skill set, a new knowledge base, or build your resume. It should be a mutually beneficial relationship where you bring value to the organization but that you also benefit.
Once you have decided on the best volunteer options for you, you'll want to understand how to set boundaries. You want to make the most of your time at the organization, so sit down with the supervisor and discuss your responsibilities, the time you have to offer, and an end date. A specific short-term project with an interesting organization can add a lot of value to your job search. What you don't want to do is get caught up in an ambiguous ongoing assignment that does not add value.
Next, you want to actively engage in developing networks throughout the organization. Think about the people that you want to meet and set up informational interviews with them. This allows you to be noticed and also develop leads to potential jobs within and outside of the organization. Finally, you should remain focused on your job search. Volunteering will keep you busy and active, but you should always have your eye on the prize and stay focused on your career. Volunteering is a win-win situation.
It demonstrates to potential employers your initiative. It can also give you a lot of visibility while giving back to your community.
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