Volunteer work is a great way for a job seeker to keep his or her skills current, add experience to a resume, and make new professional contacts. This video will show how to find opportunities to use skills in volunteer positions, locate virtual and in-person volunteering options, and add volunteerism to resumes and applications.
- If you've been laid off, and are looking for work, the last thing you want to add to your to do list is volunteering, but offering your time and talents for free to organizations and people who actually need them most is a really great way to support your own job search. In this video, we'll talk about how to find volunteer opportunities, both in person and virtual, and how to add those experiences to your job application materials. First though, let's talk about why volunteering should play a role in your layoff recovery.
In addition to benefiting other people, the act of volunteering actually has huge benefits for you. Volunteering gives you something to add to your resume. Employers understand that job loss happens for a variety of reasons that aren't within your control, but what they really care about is what you do with your time when you're out of work. Showing that you volunteered, or taking classes, or worked on freelance projects, tells employers that you've been staying active and productive. It gets you out of the house, or out of your own head.
Without a job, your days become less structured, and less social. Volunteering either in person or virtually shakes up your days, gives you more structure, and helps you socialize more. All good things when your aim is to find a new job. Also, it gives you a chance to make new contacts for your professional network, and it broadens your own support network. It brings you back to a sense of purpose to your days. One of the biggest things we lose during a layoff is that sense of purpose, that people are counting on us to get something done.
Volunteering establishes that feeling again, which ultimately makes you feel happier, and a more confident job seeker. All right, so we figured out all the different ways volunteering will benefit you, but how do you find opportunities? In person volunteering is still very much the norm, and there are more virtual options than ever before. So, the first thing you can think about is the resources and organizations in your own community. What options do you already know about? Do you know anyone who volunteers? Your town or city's website may be able to point you in the right direction, or try dialing 211 to get in contact with your local helpline, which is a government funded service that helps connect people to needed services, including volunteer connections, and of course, there are several really good websites for locating volunteer options.
You can sort opportunities by virtual, or in person, by your skills, your experience, and the number of hours that you can give, and a host of other categories. Check out VolunteerMatch.org, Catchafire.org, Idealist.org, AllForGood.org, and Volunteer.gov to find opportunities that suit your needs. The key is to find ways to use your professional skills and experience, so that you can give back, and grow your resume.
Once you've got a volunteer gig or two, how do you add this experience to your application materials? The first thing I recommend is not separating this out from your other experiences as volunteer experience. If you're using professional skills, and the volunteer roles are somewhat related to your career, it should count as experience. Add this to your experience sections on your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and anywhere else you're showcasing your work experience. You can denote it as a volunteer position in the text, but there's no need to single it out in its own separate section.
Give this experience the credit it's due by showcasing it prominently on your application materials. Another place to consider adding this information is your references list. After you've been volunteering for a little while, think about whether someone at that organization could act as a reference for you. After all, you've shown them the best of yourself, your work ethic, your experience, and your knowledge in an unpaid position. So, to recap, check with your local community, and online, to find volunteer opportunities.
Focus your search on volunteering where you can use your professional skills, and add volunteer activities to your resume in the same section as your work experience. The great thing about volunteering is that even though it can benefit your job search, you'll find that one of the biggest benefits is the positive change that it can have on you.
- Dealing with job loss
- Taking classes and building skills
- Volunteering to fill resume gaps
- Searching and applying for jobs
- Writing a better resume and cover letter
- Interviewing for your first job after a layoff