Today's guest post is from Melissa Russell.
As a consequence of the recent recession, many people have suddenly found themselves either unemployed or underemployed. Landing a job in this climate can be a challenge for anyone, so finding a way to separate yourself from the crush of applicants has become more important than ever before.
Volunteering is a great way not only to stand out from the crowd, but also to add experience to your resume, build a network of career contacts and develop new skills that will serve you well in your career advancement. As an IT professional, there is an advantage to having specific skills that can benefit a company looking for some extra help. Great places to start looking for volunteer work are nonprofit and community organizations such as libraries and schools where help is often appreciated. Many don’t have the funding, staffing or time needed to get everything done.
Find a Volunteer Program Specific to Your Career Goal
If you’re considering a career change or just want to take a step further in your current field, volunteering in your area of interest can help you make connections in that particular field. For example, if you want to become a computer technician, you could volunteer at your local community center’s IT department, which would put you in contact with professionals who could eventually help in your job hunt.
For workers looking for career advancement, volunteering can offer the opportunity to hone particular skills that may position them for a promotion, such as communication, problem solving, organization and project planning.
Websites, like TechSoup.org, which are specific to assisting techies find volunteer positions, make it easy to locate opportunities in your area. You can also contact your local Chamber of Commerce to find organizations that are looking for technical volunteers.
Learn New Skills to Apply to Your Career
Volunteer work often brings extensive training that can lend itself to a new career path. So, volunteering isn’t just about being a good citizen, it’s about gaining vast and valuable experience.
Volunteering can also help you build upon your existing skill set. If you’ve held technical jobs in the past, volunteering at a fundraiser for a local charity can help you sharpen your public speaking and marketing skills. This will give you a more versatile skillset to offer your future employer.
Volunteering Offers Great Networking Potential
Volunteering is a great way to get out in the community and meet people with whom you might not ordinarily come in contact. These new connections can offer you fresh perspectives from people of varying backgrounds and also possible leads of job opportunities in the future. Community fundraisers are great avenues for networking yourself.
Reflect Your Volunteer Work in Your Resume
Your current job level and your sought-after career path should determine how you reflect your volunteer experience on your resume. Entry-level workers who have minimal job experience should emphasize any volunteer work, focusing on the skills they brought to the organization as well as those gained by the experience itself. These skills could highlight the applicant’s ability to coordinate projects and communicate well with others, as well as be a self-motivated and self-directed employee.
For individuals who are changing careers or re-entering the workforce, it’s essential to list their volunteer experiences in a way that draws attention to skills that are focused and relevant to the field they are entering.
Other job-seekers can consider listing their volunteer activities in a separate section of their resume, perhaps along with other supplemental information such as professional accomplishments and interests.
Share the Lessons Learned from Volunteering
What has volunteering taught you and what are you now ready to share with others, both in a professional and personal context? What could you bring to a particular organization as a result of these lessons? Sharing your volunteer experiences with prospective employers can help them form a well-rounded picture of your attributes and personality.
In an increasingly fast-paced world, it can be difficult to find the time to volunteer. For those individuals who make it a priority, however, the potential for personal growth and professional advancement can be well worth the investment.
Melissa Russell works as a writer on marketing and business management. She also writes on topics such as military education and liberal arts for a number of universities through the University Alliance. Find Melissa on Twitter @M_L_Russell.