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Can You Turn Volunteer Work into a Job?

There are so many reasons to volunteer.  Perhaps there is a cause that you are passionate about.  Or maybe it is important to you to give back to your community.  It is also a great way to meet new people.  But can volunteer work help you get a job?  It is possible but you have to be strategic about it and it's not a guaranteed formula.  Here are some tips that will help you approach your volunteer work in a way that will support your career goals:

Focus on key skills.   Volunteer work is an excellent opportunity for you to develop skills that you wouldn't usually have an opportunity to use.  For example if you have studied bookkeeping, the accounting department may be willing to let you take on some tasks.  Getting these technical skills on your resume will make you more marketable when you are looking for jobs.

Look for networking opportunities.  The most valuable part of volunteering is the potential networking opportunities.  Depending on the position, you may be able to make connections and build relationships with many people who work in your industry.  Keep this in mind when choosing a volunteer opportunity because your network can open a lot of doors for you.    

Be professional.  If you are taking the time to volunteer, you might as well be professional about it.  Treat it like a job by being punctual and reliable and by dressing and behaving professionally at all times.  If everyone has a positive impression of you, it is more likely that an opportunity will become available.     

Take initiative.  You will get a lot more out of your volunteer experience if you try to identify ways that you can add value to the organization.  Are you skilled with graphic design?  Maybe you could create some flyers for the organization?  Do you have a connection with a local restaurant?  Perhaps you could organize a fundraiser.  If you find a project where you can take the lead, it could allow you to connect with the management of the organization.      

Keep an open mind.  Volunteering can definitely lead you to a job but it might not be in the way that you expect.  Keep your eyes open for jobs within the organization.  Keep an inventory of any training that you receive and skills that you attain while you are volunteering.  Also keep in touch with all the people that you meet as they may connect you to an opportunity.   

Volunteer work should be one of the many strategies that you use to find a job.  If you volunteer, network strategically, respond to job advertisements, and target specific companies, you will eventually find a job.  Just stay consistent with it and your patience will be rewarded.


(Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at