Volunteer Strategies: What You Need to Know
Before you start volunteering, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. By doing so, you will ensure that your skills and expectations are suitable for the available volunteer opportunities. With a bit of preparation, you will ensure your volunteer experience is positive and beneficial for yourself and for those requiring volunteer help. Questions you should consider:
- What skills do I have to offer? Include all skills, whether it’s making great pies or great presentations!
- Do you want to use these skills in a volunteer capacity? Just because you’re an accountant during the day doesn’t mean you have to do it during your volunteer time.
- What skills would I like to learn?
- How much time do I have? Be realistic! Agencies rely on you; commit to only what is manageable.
- What DON’T I want to do? Only do what you want – don’t feel pressured to do something you won’t enjoy!
Explore Career Options & Prepare for the Workforce by Volunteering
Volunteering provides a good opportunity to try out a career without making a long-term commitment. Through your volunteer experiences, you will gain important skills as well as meet contacts and references within your chosen field. In some instances, volunteering may even lead to a paying job. Volunteering provides the opportunity to develop self-confidence and to prove that your skills are still sharp and relevant. This is especially important if you have been out of the workforce for a while. Volunteering allows you to ease back into the work place environment and learn new skills that will be necessary in today’s work place.
Volunteering can help you explore a new career only if you select assignments that:
- Place you in the type of setting you want to learn about
- Let you work with professionals you can observe and learn from
- Provide as much training as possible
- May lead to “promotions” with more challenging tasks
Prepare for and treat volunteer opportunities as seriously as you would paid work.
- Ask for a job description beforehand so you can be prepared
- Submit a professional looking resume and interview for the volunteer position
- Complete orientation and training
- Discuss the range of volunteer positions within the organization and take the initiative in suggesting new volunteer activities
- Request that your supervisor keep a record of your service
- Use all opportunities to create a job finding network
- Prepare a resume & cover letter utilizing your volunteer experiences
- If unemployed for a period of time, put volunteer work in place of paid employment
- When you are ready to make the transition to paid work, let everyone within your organization know!
Putting Your Volunteer Experience to Work for You
- Consider integrating your volunteer work into the section of your resume called “work experience”
- Translate what you gained from the volunteer activity into the language of the paid work world – describe transferable and specialized skills you used
- Give examples of skills used
- DO NOT USE THE WORD “VOLUNTEER” AS A JOB TITLE!
- The resume should be targeted to a specific position or employer — include similarities between experience and prospective position.
- Describe the volunteer work in terms of your accomplishments, highlighting the skills that you learned and demonstrated.
- If you want to change careers, it may be your volunteer work in the new field that tells a prospective employer that you’re worth the risk – even if your paid employment history is in some other field.
- Ask for references:
- ask the person who best understands the volunteer work you did;
- ask their permission before giving their name.