Over the years I’ve worked for Volunteer Victoria I’ve done many presentations on the topic of volunteering to adult groups. (My colleagues in the youth program make presentations to youth groups.) Lately, I find myself talking a lot – especially to people in career transition – about strategic volunteering.
While this may be a new term to some of you the concept isn’t that hard to grasp. Essentially it means that while volunteers are offering their time and talents for free to an agency that needs their help, they are in turn receiving something that is important to them. Since we know that people volunteer for all different reasons, the “important thing” they receive will be different for everyone. It’s the thing that motivates them to volunteer in the first place. For example, do you want to start volunteering to make connections in the community? Do you simply want a way to get out of the house and do something fun? Or do you want to build your resume and use or gain work-related experience by volunteering? It’s the latter concept that I talk a lot about when speaking to people searching for work.
On first blush many job-seekers may wonder why they should make time in their schedule to volunteer when they really are interesting in looking for paid work. But once job-seekers realize that many skills can be built and enhanced through volunteer opportunities – and at less risk – they start to warm up to this idea. Volunteering strategically means doing the homework on yourself to figure out what it is that you want to get out of volunteering, and then going out and shopping around for volunteer opportunities that are going to help you get it. Our volunteer database is a great tool to search for something relevant to your job search, and if you don’t find something there you can start approaching agencies directly to pitch a relevant volunteer opportunity that you create for yourself. Yes, that is possible!
Remember, when volunteering strategically you’re in the driver’s seat. Be up front with the coordinator of volunteers at the particular agency you’re interested in about what you’re trying to do and for how long you think you can volunteer. It may take you some conversations and tries with a few different agencies to see how you can find a win-win situation for both you and the agency both (because of course, they still have a mission to accomplish), but the truer you stay to your strategic volunteering goal, the easier it will be to get yourself the kind of experience you need.
Once you start volunteering, don’t forget to put your volunteer experience on your resume, add it to your LinkedIn profile, and talk about it in your interviews. And if you want any more tips, or a presentation to your local adult groups about Strategic Volunteering, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at Volunteer Victoria.
Good luck on volunteering for work experience and on your job search!