Recently I joined the Board of VolunteerSquare.com, an organization facilitating connections between volunteers and not-for-profit agencies here in Fairfield County. In a related conversation I was asked to talk to a group of people who are between jobs about how volunteering can help them secure their next job.
The assumption of many job seekers is that employers are more attracted to people who volunteer as this shows you as a more caring and considerate person. This, however, is far too narrow and the attraction to employers and benefits to job seekers is much deeper and less formulaic than simply finding a volunteer opportunity.
Having spent 20 years leading Human Resource functions across a range of industries around the world, I have never seen a line leader employ someone simply because they had been involved in community support.
This does not mean that managers in companies are not interested or do not care. Their priority is to ensure that you as a candidate are able to meet the requirements to do that job as effectively as possible.
Your volunteer background is a way of demonstrating this fit, not the reason for it.
Let’s consider a few of the reasons that people volunteer:
- Give back to the community when you have been successful
- Do what is right
- Meet new people
- Be part of a group or community
- Learn or develop your skills
- Transfer your skills to others
- Enhance your resume
- Work experience
- Build self-confidence
Most jobs today require people to collaborate with each other in some way and many jobs involve managing or supervising others. All the benefits listed above make you more capable as a manager and a collaborator.
So, how can you use this to help you get the job you are looking for? There are 3 perspectives to keep in mind.
1. IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE AND RELATIONSHIPS
You will meet new people and build your network. These people are not only there to help you connect with others but also for you to learn how to work with people of different styles, cultures and perspectives. It teaches you how achieve a common goal when you have different beliefs and way of doing things.
Think about the type of job you are looking for and the type of environment that industry has. Try to work with volunteer organizations that are similar in order to give yourself the exposure and learning that you will be able to apply.
2. DEVELOPING AND TRANSFERRING SKILLS
Depending on the position, this may be about skills that involve relating to others, influencing them and leading them. You might want to develop hard skills with specific tools and equipment. When looking for the volunteer organization to join, think about what you can contribute in addition to your time. How can you help others learn, develop and make a difference themselves?
3. HELPING YOU UNDERSTAND YOURSELF
Talking about oneself is of the big challenges people have when they go through interviews for a new job. It’s uncomfortable and often when asked for an example of how you’ve done something you go blank. You may be looking at a new industry or even a completely new role. Being able to use previous experiences to demonstrate that you are able to do the job is essential.
Volunteering helps you show that you have been able to use these experiences in different ways and in different situations. That shows adaptability and reduces concerns if it’s a new role for you.
By volunteering with like-minded people you will be able to identify businesses with leaders who have a similar set of values or even support similar community needs. This can help you to target your job search.
Whatever your reason to volunteer is and whatever you want to get out of it make that sure that you truly contribute and make a difference while you are doing it. If you're looking for some help getting started finding the right gig, be sure to sign up for the free e-alerts at VolunteerSquare.com. These customized alerts will let you know when an opportunity is posted that matches your particular skills and interests.