If you have lost your job or are making a career change (like me), you know that the job market has completely changed. Job seekers have to do more than scour employment listings and send out great resumes and cover letters in order to get to the next phase. It’s likely you’ve heard that volunteering can be a great way to network while in transition, but volunteering can also be an excellent way to Stay Fresh While in Transition.
Why is this you ask? Well non-profits, government entities, and educational institutions frequently need volunteers to help their organization execute everything from day-to-day operations, large scaled events, outreach programming and most anything in between. Depending on your professional skills, you may find that putting in a few hours each week can not only put you in contact with a whole new collection of people, but can also give others an opportunity to see you in action.
So, how do you find a volunteer opportunity that offers these aspects for you. If you happen to live in the Central Ohio area, a good place to start first is HandsOn Central Ohio (formerly known as FirstLink). HandsOn is a database or clearinghouse where individuals can review volunteer opportunities by cause or organization.
Once you’ve identified a few organizations that you are interested in working with, the next step is to contact the volunteer coordinator to schedule a meeting. Although you could discuss with this person on the phone your interests, an in-person meeting gives you an opportunity see where in the community the facility is located, take a tour and garner a better sense of what they are all about.
During your meeting with the volunteer coordinator, be sure to let me know you are interested in something that is long term — like a 3 to 6 month commitment. The benefit of pursuing a long term project is that you can build and develop relationships better. It’s great to lend a helping hand the day of a big event — but if you want people to see you in action — you likely need to commit to something that gives individuals the chance to see you over time.
Also during your meeting with the volunteer coordinator, be sure to ask lots of questions — don’t worry they expect you will have them. Consider writing a few of these questions down before you go in so you are well prepared.
- What is you “signature” program or event?
- What are the demographics of the community members your organization serves?
- I’m in the (fill in the blank) industry, what types of volunteer opportunities are available that will allow me to keep up on my skills while in transition?
- Where are your greatest volunteer needs?
- Are there other volunteers that you can put me in contact with to learn more about their experiences?
- Do you have any opportunities that are long term like 3-6 months?
These are just a few questions to get you started, but are designed to help you take seriously a volunteer undertaking.
Depending on who you speak with, you are likely to get a lot of information and feel very excited about what you’ve discovered — that’s great — but don’t commit to anything that day. Thank the volunteer coordinator for their time, and let them know you will be in contact with them during the next week. Your best strategy is to take some time to think over the information and the potential options you’ve been presented with. Sleep on it and then review the information again. Try and get in contact with other volunteer if possible to learn about their experiences — then make a decision.
Once you’ve made a decision about what will work best for you and contacted the volunteer coordinator to let them know — follow through. Remember non-profits, government entities, and educational institutions always need volunteers to keep things working. So, flaking out is not an option.
Also, as you begin to meet new people, get to know them and allow them to get to know you. Not just your professional interests, but also your personal interests and things you are passionate about. Be sure to tell others you are in transition and looking for new opportunities. Don’t be shy. So, what do you think? Are you ready to stay fresh in your industry and help your community at the same time?
- Resume Builder: How to Leverage Volunteer Work on Your Résumé (ybpguide.com)
- Best Transition Ideas from College to a Career (brighthub.com)