Test Drive Your New Skills by Volunteering

You’ve taken classes, attended seminars, maybe even sat in a college classroom — and now you have great skills but no experience. How can you bridge the gap between education and experience?

It doesn’t seem fair. You’ve worked so hard on your education or professional and personal development only to get knocked back down because you lack the experience to make yourself a prime candidate for a job in your new field.

Volunteering is a great way to put your new skills to work. You get to test drive your new skills while growing your network at the same time. It works well with just about any skill in a variety of fields, such as communication, event planning, management, marketing, planning, programming and technology. There are many advantages to volunteering. Here are a few:

Volunteering allows you to contribute to your professional development.

Aside from giving your new skills some real-world, applicable practice, volunteering also makes you a more attractive job candidate. If you lose your job for whatever reason, volunteering during your downtime sends a strong message to prospective employers that you’re able to fill in the gaps between employment with productive activities.

A report by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that volunteers increased their chances of finding a job, often much more so than non-volunteers. It is important for job-seekers to include any volunteer activities on their resume.

In fact, volunteers:

  • Have a 27 percent increased chance of finding a job
  • Have a 51 percent increased chance of finding a job, for job-seekers without a high school diploma
  • Have a 55 percent increased chance of finding a job when living in rural areas

What skills can you learn from volunteering that can help advance your career?

Many non-profits structure their volunteer opportunities so that people can learn new skills or receive support for acquiring new skills. By doing this, they make their organization much more attractive to people who may want to volunteer.

Volunteering allows people to get hands-on experience in various skills that are transferable to corporations and well-paying jobs. They can learn leadership, entrepreneurship and other skills that will advance them in their professional pursuits. They can enjoy incredible networking opportunities as well.

Volunteering can help you:

  • Develop skills
  • Improve skills
  • Network with other professionals
  • Showcase your skills
  • Fills in any gaps in employment on your resume.

When you volunteer, you can practice and use your new skills in an environment that is relatively risk-free.

Find Volunteering Opportunities

Finding opportunities for volunteering is surprisingly easy. You can approach the larger, well-known voluntary agencies like the Salvation Army, United Way, and the American Heart Association, but they usually have an abundance of volunteers. You may be able to do more good by seeking out one of the smaller, lesser-known voluntary agencies and working with them.

There are several very good directories for volunteers that will help you choose the best organization for you.

Some places where you can volunteer include:

  • Animal shelters or rescues
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Retirement homes
  • Political Campaigns
  • Hospice
  • Food pantries
  • Art museums
  • National parks
  • YMCA
  • Local libraries

This is not a complete list by any means, but a device that will prompt you to think about opportunities in your area and search for them.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is a collection of agencies that respond to disasters. There are VOAD chapters in each state, so you can search for your state’s chapter. This is a great resource that will allow you to hone your skills while helping others.

Join the International Association of Women (IAW) and network with other women who are just like you. Our global networking platform for professional women allows you to make valuable business contacts, take courses to acquire new skills, and connect to great resources that will advance you both professionally and personally. Visit our site today to learn more.

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