Even for those who’ve found a temporary fun job or a part-time gig to keep the cash flowing, or at least trickling, volunteering can offer the opportunity to add career specific skills to a resume.
Volunteer work "is a very good idea, especially if you’re unemployed and don’t have a ton of prospects,” says certified career coach Hallie Crawford. “Regardless, it’s a good idea because it shows that you have initiative and shows that you want to stay busy.”
Public relations specialists can join a political campaign, engineers and architects can volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, and just about anyone can spend time mentoring and tutoring students studying their profession.
“Build your experience or use your skills if you can,” Crawford says, using management professionals as an example. “If you work in management, find volunteer work…on the board of an organization or more project-oriented work.”
This could include joining the local Rotary or chamber of commerce, which would not only be a resume builder but a networking opportunity.
It’s these networking opportunities that Crawford says makes local volunteering the best choice, but international opportunities, like teaching English abroad, can also be a great resume builder for young professionals.
“That’s a great life experience that will make employers look at you as more well-rounded,” she says.
The tax benefits for volunteering can’t hurt either.
Yes, volunteering provides many professional benefits, but the personal rewards may be even greater.
“Going from a full-time job to a complete stop is basically just demoralizing and counter-productive,” says John McKee, CEO and founder of BusinessSuccessCoach.net. “And I think it’s also true that the more we do, the more we can do.”
He cautions against volunteering solely for the professional benefits. The main purpose, he says, should always be a genuine desire to help others.
“I propose it more for the benefits that they can give you psychologically: get you motivated, get you out of bed, get you involved with others who may help you find opportunities,” he says.
Another psychological benefit is that volunteer work generally puts people in a better mood.
“It really helps lift you and makes you a better interviewee and makes you more likely to present yourself in a better fashion,” McKee says.
Depending on what kind of volunteer work interests you, there are various Web sites tailored to help.
For general listings, visit VolunteerMatch or 1-800-Volunteer, which allow users to search by interest and location, but only within the United States. VolunteerMatch is a centralized company located in San Francisco, while 1-800-Volunteer is made up of a collection of volunteer centers from all over the country. Both provide extensive listings.
If President Obama’s nationwide call to action is one of your main motives to volunteer, visit Serve.gov. Like the aforementioned sites, it allows users to search for volunteer opportunities by location and interest. It also provides information on federal civil service, military, foreign service and local government opportunities.
To scratch the travel itch at the same time as volunteering, visit VolunteerAbroad.com, which provides information on volunteer programs abroad, as well as internships, education and jobs overseas.
No matter which path you choose, use volunteering to help write your own success story.
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