Have you been applying to jobs recently with absolutely no luck? Are you falling short on certain qualifications? Are you in that awkward phase where people tell you that you have no experience, but no one is offering to help you gain that experience? Are you attempting to switch careers, but have little experience in your desired field? Do recruiters and hiring managers pigeon-hole you into that one job you’ve been doing for the last 10 years? Are you a hiring manager struggling to fill positions? Have you hired the wrong candidate in the past, and are skittish about the recruitment process? As a business owner or hiring manager, volunteering is a great way to see potential candidates in action when they think no one is watching them. This is the best way to determine how hard they’ll work for you, and creating that relationship BEFORE you hire helps you make a well-informed decision. Volunteering is a much more intimate way for candidates and employers to meet and determine if they are a good match to work together.
Benefits of Volunteering
1. Networking – Obviously working alongside that many people will provide opportunities for networking, but in a lot of volunteer positions, the chairs and presidents of some of those organizations are also presidents and managers of companies and could potentially be well connected in the business arena (They’re often there hoping to meet up with some new potential clients or business partners or build a pool of candidates for their next big project). Showing up, working hard and making connections in a relaxed and enjoyable setting is much more efficient in a job search than just sending them your resume. You get the opportunity to engage on a more personal level and they will remember your work ethics and passion.
2. Experience – Volunteer positions often give you an opportunity to show people what you can do, but often these position allow you to do things you don’t have any experience doing. This is a perfect place to beef up your resume and add some leadership content. As a young professional, you’re often overlooked for leadership roles because of your inexperience. Many volunteer organizations don’t share that stigma. As a recruiter, I often find people drawing on their volunteer experiences when discussing their qualifications for leadership roles. Especially when trying to move up in the same company, without having been given an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills in their current position.
3. References – One of the big complaints I get from candidates is that their employers don’t provide references. In some industries it is company policy not to provide references and trying to get information on your past performance is like pulling teeth. If you have volunteered for a known charity and can provide me with a name of someone who supervised your work while you were there, I can use those in lieu of someone in an actual position.
4. Resume Building – There is a three to five year experience hump that you have to get over when you first graduate. One of the most disheartening feelings is that period after graduation where your degree makes you overqualified for some positions and underqualified for anything that requires experience. Even later in your career if you’re attempting to make the jump from one career path to another, it’s difficult to prove to someone you can do that job before they’ve given you the chance. Search for a volunteer opportunity that gives you that chance.
I keep telling people that the job search is much more entrepreneurial than it used to be. Sitting in your kitchen and sending out resumes is not the most efficient way to find jobs anymore. You need to get out there and meet people. As a business owner or sales professional, this is an excellent opportunity for you to get out and meet some of those candidates, and rub shoulders with some potential clients as well.
As a final note on volunteering, you should also be conscious that in order for it to be a positive experience, you have to be dedicated to it. Make sure that when you’re looking for something to try, you find something that you’re passionate about. When you finally do get a job or your business starts to pick up, you shouldn’t stop volunteering altogether. Align the time you dedicate to volunteering with your values and morals and you’ll gain both personal and professional rewards.
About the Author
Scott Keenan is a Recruiter for Priority Personnel Inc., with several years’ experience recruiting in both the public and private sectors in addition to marketing and social media roles. As a self-described professional cynic, he provides unique insight into modern recruiting from both the recruiter and candidate’s perspective. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn