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How to Leverage Volunteer Experience in Your Career

Charlotte Weeks
Weeks Career Services, Inc.
312-662-1410
http://www.weekscareerservices.com
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We’ve all heard that volunteer work can enhance your resume. While it certainly can’t hurt, it’s much more effective to be strategic about the opportunities that you take on in the first place.

One of the universal “selling points” of volunteer work is that it shows that you’re a giving person, someone who’s willing to jump in and help regardless of pay. This can make even more of a difference if you’re hoping to work in the non-profit industry.

However, even if you’d like to pursue a position in a corporation, volunteering can help you. Consider the following:

  1. Do you have “gaps” in your experience? If you lack the skills required for your goal job, you can usually pick them up while volunteering. For example, if you need management experience, offer to lead a team on a project.
  2. Do you lack a related background? If you’re looking for a marketing job but you’ve only worked in finance, volunteering to promote an organization will increase your credibility. You’ll learn the lingo and get an overall feel for the industry.
  3. Do you even know what you want to do? For people considering a career change, nothing beats volunteering. There’s usually not a long-term commitment, and there are numerous ways to fit the work into your schedule. Before going back to school or quitting your job, test out a new industry or function by volunteering first.
  4. Do you know have a strong network? Whether or not you do, it always helps to keep growing it. Establish relationships naturally and with those who have a common interest.

These tips can help you whether you’re looking to get a new job, get promoted, or just as part of ongoing career management. To maximize your unpaid experience don’t jump at any opportunity that comes your way. Of course, think about what you can bring to the table, but consider how it can benefit you as well. There are countless ways to use your time and talents to serve – choose those that you are passionate about and that can give to you in return.

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