Volunteering is a great way to enrich your life and give back to your community. With the right approach, you can also use those donated hours to advance your career. This is a four-step plan for success.
Find An Organization You Believe In: Find a group whose mission excites you. Once you have put in a little volunteer time and proven your worth, you can ask for a brief meeting with the volunteer coordinator or the program director. Discuss creating your own position that will teach you new skills or showcase your existing talents. You may even want to consider becoming a board member – it’s a great way to develop your leadership capacity, and it looks good on a resume.
This first step isn’t just a tip we found. When my partner was younger she volunteered at the American Red Cross. She was passionate about organizing people to give blood and learning valuable organizational and office skills that she was able to transfer to future paying position.
Agree On Mutual Expectations: Some organizations have formal volunteer programs, and others may need you to take the initiative to structure your own activities. Approach it like you would a paid job. Write up a position description complete with responsibilities and evaluation criteria.
Exchange Feedback: Frequent constructive feedback helps to ensure that both sides are getting what they need out of the relationship. Let people know you want their input. And feedback is a two way street. Make suggestions if you see opportunities to improve a process…but don’t be too aggressive.
Turn Your Volunteer Experience Into A Career Asset: Put that volunteer work to good use. Extend your network through your contacts with other volunteers, supporters and staff. Stay in touch and ask for referrals to more people you want to meet if the opportunity arises. Put together a portfolio of work samples you produce like brochures or posters. Write up your specific accomplishments and add them to your resume – in a variety of different ways. Volunteer experience is work experience, whether you are paid or not.