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Volunteering IS Networking

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July 13, 2010
I wasn’t surprised when the Bureau of Labor statistics reported that volunteer hours were up in 2009.  It seems some people are catching on that volunteering can be a great way to spend the extra time you now have from a recent downsizing or company closing. 

Obviously, you need to spend time searching for a new position and going to interviews but that should still leave a fair amount of time left for other things.  True, you could organize your garage (which if it’s like mine, is long overdue) but I don’t think that is going to help you land a new job.  You may be wondering how volunteering can help you land a new position and so I would encourage you to consider the following:

  • While volunteering you are meeting a lot of different people with their own network of individuals you’ve never met.  This network could be very advantageous for you.
  • You are keeping your social skills fresh, even if the work you are doing isn’t related to your career.  The social skills will help you during an interview.  If you haven’t talked to a stranger in months, chances are your first interview isn’t going to go so well.  If you are interacting with strangers regularly then it becomes more comfortable for you.  Plus it always looks good to have volunteering on your resume.
  • Some of the people you volunteer with might be in the same situation you are and therefore you can provide moral support to each other, it’s quite possible that you would make a new friend.
  • Once you do land an interview and they ask you a behavioral based question that goes something like this, "Tell me about a time when you were released from a position involuntarily.  What was your reaction?  What did you do next?"  If you answer, "I applied to a few jobs on CareerBuilder and cleaned out my garage" chances are your competition is going to answer something like this, "I started by reaching out to my network, I searched the job boards and applied for positions that I felt fit my background, and then I spent the extra time volunteering with XYZ organization to assist them with XYZ."  Which do you think sounds more motivated?  Employers want to hire people whom want to work. 
  • Lastly, quite possibly the best benefit to volunteering is the internal reward you receive in return for your efforts.  Ever heard someone say, "I think I got more out of the volunteering than I could have ever given"?  I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes it’s difficult to handle the stress of a downsizing or lay-off, volunteering may bring some hope back into your life. 

Hopefully, I have convinced you of some of the benefits of volunteering.  If I have and you are ready to go find the next volunteering opportunity keep these three things in mind:

  1. Even if you begin volunteering for the more selfish reason of networking, make sure you see the value in what you are doing, believe in the mission the not-for-profit is trying to accomplish or otherwise the message is lost on you.
  1. Build a network naturally (without stalking, forcing people to keep in touch with you, etc) as it should be one that you keep in your life for many years to come whether you land that new job or not.
  1. Check out or if you aren’t tied to a specific not-for-profit.  These both offer volunteering opportunities with many different organizations in Indianapolis.  If you have a specific not-for-profit in mind, feel free to contact them directly, they are bound to need help in some area.