The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that approximately 62.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between 2009 and 2010. Even though not all of these volunteers were seeking full-time employment -- with 15 million unemployed, the professional value of unpaid work could hardly be greater.
In an opinion poll conducted by Opinion Research for the Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey, a large amount of workers responded positively as to whether volunteering impacted their career. Workers said that volunteering increased their networking contacts, enhanced business skills, and helped them develop leadership abilities. Let's look at these three things in more depth:
1. Increase networking contacts.
Have you ever wondered how that person got that job or how you could do something that you feel passionate about and actually get paid to do it? For some folks, it started by volunteering.
Think about it: Have you ever stopped and considered how many small business owners participate in volunteer opportunities? Volunteers interact with other volunteers. If a volunteer can help you by providing a contact or link to people or positions that are open and hiring, most likely they will give you this information before the job announcement even hits the local newspaper.
2. Enhance business skills.
Most employers won't hire someone without experience, and volunteer work experience is almost as valuable as paid work experience.
Mary Gannon, author of Starting Over: 25 Rules When You've Bottomed Out, retells a story of her volunteer experience. While looking for employment, she decides to volunteer at her local school district, writing grants. Having no experience in grant writing, she takes a free class given by her public library on the subject of grant writing. Her voluntary efforts help the school district secure a $68,000 grant. Eventually, she was able to parlay her new-found skills into full-time employment as a hospital foundation executive.
There are many more success stories like this one. The key is to look for volunteer opportunities in areas related to the position you are trying to obtain.
3. Develop leadership abilities.
How can serving food, addressing envelopes, answering phones or making photocopies develop leadership abilities? First and foremost, you are displaying leadership just by "leading by example."
A friend of mine worked as a Training and Development Specialist for a large corporation, and took a volunteer position in the company's "Building Better Health" program. She started out by writing brief health tips for the program's online employee newsletter, making copies and stuffing them in mailboxes.
She used her experience in T&D and presented the idea of conducting monthly brown-bag "Lunch and Learns," which incorporated health tips to the program's administrator. The "Lunch and Learns" became so popular that she had to conduct two monthly sessions just to meet the numbers of employees signing up.
She went from writing, photocopying and distributing newsletters to organizing and teaching two monthly classes. When promotion time came around, her volunteer service in the "Building Better Health" Program paid off big time!
Volunteering is a special commitment in which one gives their time and talents to a worthy enterprise. It can also be a pathway to find the career of your dreams.
How has volunteering helped you in your job efforts?
Anthony Cintron is the president and chief technology officer of Resoomay, a cloud-based pre-screening tool that improves the job search process for recruiters and applicants. Connect with him and Resoomay on Facebook and Twitter.
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