Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get out of the House, Learn New Skills, Help Others and Your Resume

Jobless? Volunteer for Opportunities

Today, Good Morning America ran a story for the jobless - suggesting that volunteering can put you back on track to gainful employment.

"Everyone knows you're not job hunting effectively if you flood job boards with resumes and then hope the phone rings. Carve out time daily to find good leads, send out resumes to follow up, and make new contacts. That leaves time to devote to volunteering, which offers great benefits to advance your career."

When You Volunteer You:

Gain a new skill or enhance an existing one while minimizing a gap in unemployment. The change to get out of the house and feel good about giving your time and talent. Introductions to new people who may help in your search A positive experience to share when a prospective employer asks, "What have you been doing with your time?"

Ideally, to reap the maximum benefit from your volunteer time, your efforts should be aligned with your career goals. For example, an out-of-work graphic designer can offer to create a logo, invitations and all print and online materials for the 25th anniversary fundraiser at a church, or that same person can volunteer for an organization that brings arts programs to needy schools.Those contributions help a worthy cause and add value to a resume that's in keeping with the type of position the candidate wants to pursue.

Position Value to an Employer:

It's up to you to position your volunteer work in a way that's perceived as valuable by prospective employers. Do so in business terms that translate in any work place.

Tap New Connections:

Don't be shy about looking at the board of directors or the list of supporters at the organization. If you can point to the value you've brought to that group, there's nothing wrong with making a cold call or sending an e-mail saying, "I've been volunteering here ... this is my contribution ... and I'd very much appreciate the chance to spend a few minutes talking to you about my work in this field."

That doesn't work if you've been there for three days; it's only applicable once you've shown a sustained commitment.

Talk to other volunteers to find out what kind of work they do. Even if they're out of work, they likely have a spouse, friend, neighbor, former colleague or someone who they could introduce you to if there's a potential connection.

Volunteer Overload?

In some organizations, there's a catch-22. Finally, highly qualified people want to volunteer, but the charity doesn't have the people and resources in place to handle the overflow of volunteer requests.

If this is true at your desired place of service, your best move is to approach the organization with an idea of how and where you can help, as opposed to waiting for the group to assess your interests.

Don't limit yourself to the big names. While there's instant recognition and prestige, you can also contribute to smaller groups where you can truly have ownership of projects and cut through red tape to make things happen.

To find an opportunity, VolunteerMatch.org is a national database of organizations looking for volunteers. You can also approach any group of your choice in your area.

Externships Are Also an Option

Volunteering is associated with nonprofits, interning is connected to students, and externing is a combination that's focused on professionals in the corporate world.

Tory Johnson is the Workplace Contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women For Hire. Visit her Web site at www.womenforhire.com and follow her on Twitter.com/ToryJohnson."

Article: Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures. Picture: Copyright http://www.move.org.sg/ebook.gif

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