Category Archives: volunteering

How To Stay Fresh While in Transition: Volunteer

Austell, GA, September 30, 2009 -- FEMA Commun...

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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?

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Posted by on September 19, 2010 in Networking, volunteering


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Reach Out Before, Reap the Rewards After

I recently attended the Orientation for Project Diversity — an 8 month leadership development program through the United Way of Central Ohio — where I met my fellow co-participants. Many of my cohort members are business professionals employed in powerhouse organizations around Columbus, including Grange Insurance (a longtime sponsor of the program), Nationwide Insurance, PNC Bank and others. In those types of setting, I frequently feel a little “out of sorts.” In my attempt to make a good impression, I decided to use social media to help me feel more comfortable in this crowd of prestigious individuals.

Once I received the list of attendees, I reviewed each person’s professional profile on LinkedIn and sent out an invitation to connect. Since, many people don’t use LinkedIn as much as I do, I also reached out to my co-participants on Facebook as well. What this experience taught me is that to Reach Out Before, Reap the Benefits After. A few things this strategy can offer that may make it appealing to consider next time you are preparing to be in a room full of people you do not know, but know you are charged with “networking” and building relationships. 

Lay of the Land Reviewing the LinkedIn and Facebook profiles of the anticipated group can give you an understanding of who will be in the room. This is great because it provides an opportunity to consider what common interests, professional careers aspects, hometown, or associates you might have in common. I appreciate this aspect of reaching out before, because I can develop a few speaking points to have ready and not feel as though I’m “grasping for straws” trying to keep the conversation going.

Name–Face Recognition Everyone knows that those great at networking have an outstanding memory — they can always match a name with a face. If you’re like me, that is not your strong suite. So, the chance to view names and faces, making some connections there makes this task a little more managable. Even if you don’t remember everyone’s name and face together, if you are one of a few reaching out before, it’s likely that you will be remembered

Developing a Context What I found most exciting about reaching out before, was that many of my co-participants wanted to meet me face-to-face because we had already connected online. For two weeks leading up to the event. people reviewed my status updates on both Facebook and LinkedIn and I had done the same. When we did meet at the Orientation event, I felt as though I had a context for my co-participants and vice versa. Additionally — and this is no surprise — many felt that I gave them a little “kick in the social media pants.” This was fruitful because we immediately had another topic of conversation at hand.

Personal Branding Reaching out before can provide an additional opportunity to engage in personal (and professional) branding as an expert in your field. For someone in the field of social media that means using the channels to do the work so that what you do is illustrated by your actions and behaviors. I like this feature because it means you can do less telling and more showing.

So, if you’re not convinced that reaching out before can reap benefits after — try it before your next job interview, business meeting, or panel presentation. Study the profiles and see if you feel a little better equipped to be your best self in an unfamiliar setting. Keep in mind, what most people find nerve-wracking about these settings is not knowing who you’re talking to or what to discuss. Consider this as a way to have a leg up in the situation. Let me know if you Reach Out Before and what ensues from there:


Posted by on March 30, 2010 in business, social media, volunteering


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