Take a look at your résumé. Is it limited to your professional experience and education? While some volunteer experiences may not be relevant to your résumé, volunteering presents you with a network of people who can attest to your performance (and readily recommend you for jobs), as well as keeps you “fresh” in skill sets between jobs. Of course, volunteering is also an excellent way to give back to those in need and, if you’re between jobs, a great way to keep you focused and positive.
One of the biggest areas of concern for job seekers and hiring managers is gaps on a résumé. While the job seeker is concerned that an employment gap will be inaccurately perceived by an employer as “vacation,” the hiring manager may ask, “Exactly what did Joe Candidate do while he was unemployed?” Doing nothing, in the potential employer’s mind, could indicate that skill sets deteriorated, the potential employee grew “out of touch” with the workplace (and therefore might have a difficult time transitioning back), or simply lacked motivation (and would, as a result, lack the same motivation for getting the job done for the employer). Even though volunteer work is not paid work, the benefiting organizations need work at the same level of skill and expertise that “paying” companies need. A volunteer who does this work, on a limited budget and successfully, is one who is staying workplace ready.
Another benefit of volunteering is the extension of your job seeking network. Whether you’re unemployed or considering a job change, if you have a good relationship with other volunteers (who may be employed or know people at companies in which you’re interested), the board of directors (they’re definitely well connected), and the paid staff of the organization (ready-made references), you have people who are ready, willing and able to help you get your foot in the door at a lot of new places. All you need to do is put the word out that you’re looking.
Don’t wait to volunteer. If your time is limited, volunteer one or two hours per week to start. Do more than show up at meetings. Get involved in a committee or committees that can use your current skill set or in which you can explore a new area or interest. You never know where it may lead you in your career.