Happy male volunteer

Volunteer your way into a job

Colleen Clarke|

How does one get that first or second job? You don’t have any experience, but you need someone to trust in you and pick YOU to deliver flyers, scoop ice cream, plant trees, stuff envelopes or hammer nails.

One quick track to getting that experience is to volunteer. You should have started when you were 12, but it’s never too late. Tell everyone you know that you are willing and able to take on any chore or responsibility that will give you a new skill.

Once you’ve gained some experience, you can transfer the new skills you’ve acquired into your job search and apply them to your resume. For example, shoveling the snow for people on your street will teach you commitment, reliability, dependability, tenacity, and hard work. It will also keep you in good shape. All these things are transferable. A comprehensive list of volunteer possibilities and the skills and strengths you can draw from them is below.

Look on the internet for Volunteer Bureaus in your area. Sites like Volunteer.ca will connect you with opportunities, while Habitat.ca offers opportunities to work with Habitat for Humanity. You can also find a business you want to work with and approach them directly. Prepare a short, effective presentation that speaks to why the potential customer needs to take you on. Demonstrate your abilities, for example, by designing a flyer that shows off your graphic and computer skills.

Once you get the experience, the building starts. With each activity you take on, assess what you have learned. Convert this information into transferable skills that you can talk about in an interview and write into your resume. Just because you aren’t paid to work doesn’t mean you aren’t working, learning and growing.

Be prepared to explain that because when you did X in the volunteer work it made you understand and relate to Y better, therefore you can easily see yourself doing W in this job. Prepare a Situation Action Result statement about each new skill you have acquired and used in your volunteer work.

Note that the networking possibilities here are plentiful. Many employed people volunteer so these placements could be a great opportunity for you to uncover a hidden job posting.

Skills and Strengths Learned From Volunteering

Shoveling snow – commitment, reliability, dependability, strength and wellness of body, tenacity, hard working

Mowing grass, weeding, watering gardens – proper use and care of equipment, thoroughness, physical wellness, reliability, dependability; knowledge of plants, temperature, soil

Construction – physical wellness, attention to detail, following instructions and orders, camaraderie, trust, safety, use of tools, communication

Pet Sitting – reliability, dependability, thoroughness, responsibility

Dog walking – reliability, dependability, responsibility, knowledge of pet care and attention and responsiveness to behavior

Animal care – rescue efforts, feeding, fostering, monitoring, transporting, walking, cleaning cages, responding to questions about animals and/or their habitat, fundraising initiatives

House sitting – reliability, dependability, responsibility

Assisting seniors – patience, kindness, listening, reliability, dependability, responsibility, driving; communication such as speaking on their behalf to doctors, pharmacists, hair dressers, banks, family members and to them specifically

In a workplace – operating equipment, communicating with diversified personnel, techniques and procedures for executing business, social media, computer and web skills, reliability, professional demeanor, assertiveness, following orders, interpersonal skills

Retail – customer service, attention to detail, taking the initiative, creativity for new or faster ways to accomplish a task, organizing, interpersonal skills, product knowledge, an understanding of retail operations, meeting new people, following orders, being helpful

Hospitals/Health centres – assisting with meals, spiritual/emotional encouragement to clients and their family, recreational planning and participation, patience, kindness, understanding, communication

Entertainment – taking the initiative, assertiveness, creativity, professional improvement, interpersonal skills, communication

Employers take volunteer work on a resume very seriously, it is up to you to make the link between what you did and what you can do for an employer.


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  • http://about.me/davidalangay David Gay

    Some disadvantages of volunteer work:

    Volunteer work only exists because the organization does not have the money to pay a wage. There’s no reason to assume that organization will take you full time with pay.

    Volunteer experience is not automatically transferable to your chosen career track. For example, volunteering to teach immigrants computer programming is not an automatic transfer to an I.T. job, even if the same programming language is used.

    If you are doing volunteer work during the day, particularly in the morning, you are taking away time that could be better used in your job search. If you really want to volunteer, do it at night, not during the day. Save that time for your job hunt and especially for yourself.

    Final note: always remember, if you are out of work, charity begins at home. Get your financial house and employment situation in order first before you run off and help other people. This may sound mean and harsh, but we are in the Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery from one of the worst recessions in modern history. There are very few resources available that will help and the risk of falling through the cracks and off the social support is a very real danger.

  • Tinacia

    check out coursea for free online courses offered by universities partnered around the world! I just started mine, but will continue to do more! I believe continuing education is important for your brain as well as experience in the work field! Volunteering positions are great to helping your communities