Work Gaps? No Experience? Volunteer Positions Can Be Resumé Gold

Job Search Advice for the New Year: Volunteer 

If seeking a job is your goal for 2015, then you’re probably taking a hard look at your resumé this month. After all, the decision to hire begins with your resumé or application. If you’ve been out of work for a while, or if your skills and experience aren’t measuring up, you may feel caught in a vicious cycle. Without getting hired, those gaps only grow wider, consuming any chance you have of getting the job you want. If your resumé or application is coming up short, get ready for the best advice you’ll hear in 2015: Volunteer.

It may seem difficult to give your time away when what you really need is a steady paycheck, but believe us when we say that volunteering can work magic on a resumé. It can make work gaps all but disappear and put skeptical employers under your spell.

According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, volunteers have higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers, and that increase can go up to 51% for those without a high school diploma. So if you’re in the job market this year, sprinkle the equivalent of a little gold dust on your application and volunteer. Here’s the run-down on getting the most out of the opportunity.

5 Ways Volunteering Helps Your Job Prospects 

  1. It eliminate work gaps. Volunteering can go on your resumé as work experience, and that means fewer lapses to answer for, especially when it’s been some time between jobs.
  2. It builds self-esteem. Job searching is a confidence sapper. Continuing your work routine and providing value to an organization combats job search hopelessness in a way nothing else can.
  3. It develops skills. By choosing an opportunity that puts your skills to work, your volunteer experience is as good as a paid position. Even skills like teamwork and punctuality enhance a thin résumé.
  4. It shows you’re a self-starter. Volunteering means you’re ambitious, you’re a go-getter, and you take helping your community to heart. In short, employers love it.
  5. It provides contacts. It’s a fact that most hiring is done by hearing about a job or knowing someone who has one. Volunteering puts you back in the work force network.

5 Things To Know Before You Volunteer

  1. Do what inspires you. Your volunteer work should be something you feel passionate about says the Florida Times Union. It will help you stay committed if you are connected to the organization’s mission.
  2. Use your skills. Organizations have many needs, so be determined about the role you want to play, and make sure it’s something that pushes you to use your skills. If graphic design is your interest, do the monthly newsletter at the local animal shelter, and say no to that job cleaning cages, at least for now. 
  3. Seek out contacts. Volunteer where there are people in your line of work, even if you’re doing something else in the organization. Also, be sure someone in the position of authority can give you a letter of commendation for your efforts. 
  4. Make sure it’s a formal position. Some organizations simply aren’t equipped take on volunteers. Make sure your volunteer position is with a medium or large 501(c)3, or with a business that accepts interns, where you can take advantage of training, get on a set schedule, get your name in the weekly newsletter, and have a manager or volunteer coordinator to whom you report. 
  5. Take it seriously. Your volunteer work is a reflection of the kind of employee you are, so put your professional foot forward just as you would in a paid position.

5 Ways To Begin

  1. In Maine: Start your position search at VoluteerMaine.org, or look for organizations that accept volunteers at the Maine Association of Nonprofits.
  2. In New Hampshire: VolunteerNH.org can help you find opportunities or learn about AmericaCorps. You can also visit NH Center for Nonprofits to find a compatible organization seeking volunteers.
  3. Anywhere: Start your search at Serve.gov, or find the right opportunity for you at Voluteermatch.org, where you can search for opportunities by state.  You can also search local job boards – they usually post non-paid, intern, and volunteer positions along with paid ones.
  4. Teach a class. Whether you’ve got knowledge in accounting, hula-hooping, or creating a Facebook page, community and adult education centers and some local support organizations are open to hearing pitches to head up classes and workshops of all kinds.
  5. Use your skills to make a difference. Media Cause has work for those with professional and marketing skills willing to donate their time to a good cause (and in some cases, they can lead to paid positions).

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