Getting Hired: The Volunteer Advantage

Although your ultimate goal is a paying position, in the current job market the fastest track to the job of your dreams may be a job as a volunteer.

Employers value experience. But for college students and individuals interested in a career change, relevant work experiences can be hard to come by. As ridiculous as it sounds, inexperienced jobseekers need to get experience before they can gain real world experience as a bona fide employee.

Sound frustrating? It is – especially for first-time job seekers who are trying to compete against the seasoned candidates that populate today’s career marketplace. So to secure an advantage in the hiring process, many job seekers are turning to an unlikely – but potentially profitable – strategy: Volunteering.

Nonprofit organizations require many of the same types of employees as for-profit companies. Nonprofits (large and small) need bookkeepers, HR/volunteer coordinators, building supervisors, executive leadership and other employees that are commonly found in the for-profit universe. The only difference is that most nonprofits can’t afford to compensate these workers for their efforts.

By volunteering to fill a role in a nonprofit, job seekers can gain valuable experience in their fields. Often, volunteer workers are asked to fill management or administrative roles that would take years to achieve in the for-profit world.

Your tenure as a nonprofit doesn’t need to be long and it’s possible to perform volunteer duties while you continue to conduct your job search. But while you’re there, you will need to approach your position with the same professionalism and diligence as you would if you were working for a Fortune 500 employers.

 Making the Most of a Volunteer Position

  1. Pursue Transferable Skills & Experiences

    To get maximum career value from your volunteer work, you will need to look for volunteer opportunities in your career field. For example, if you’re an IT guru, you might want to spearhead an effort to revamp a local nonprofit’s IT resources. Although it may be difficult to find a perfect match, search for roles that provide work experiences that are valuable to decision-makers in your field.

  2. Embrace Big Challenges

    Volunteers are frequently presented with opportunities to tackle major organizational challenges. When (not if) that happens, don’t shy away from big challenges – even if you don’t feel completely equipped for the job. In reality, you may be the most qualified person for the job and when you succeed, your accomplishment will look great on your resume.

  3. Aggressively Network

    It’s a little known fact that nonprofits are hotbeds for career networking. One of the great things about nonprofit organizations is that entry-level job seekers can find themselves volunteering alongside CEOs. Don’t hesitate to actively network with the people you meet and leverage them as assets in your job search.

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