Strategic Volunteerism

Today I’d like to tell you about Jane. Jane is an absolute ace. She’s professional, smart and gives her all whenever she takes on a project or commitment. Like many job seekers interested in staying visible and positive, Jane spends much of her time volunteering. The hours of service she’s provided to her community have been invaluable, but she has yet to see much momentum in her job search from her efforts.

Though I fully understand the primary purpose of volunteering should be supporting a cause, I want to talk about Jane’s situation because it’s an important lesson for those needing better results in their job search. It is possible to serve your community and make significant strides in your job search at the same time. The key is finding strategic ways to volunteer that showcase the talents you’d like a potential employer to notice.

Jane volunteers for just about everything. One day she’s playing BINGO with senior citizens, another she’s helping dish out coleslaw at a community picnic and yet another she’s stuffing roadside trash into a bag along the highway. These are all good things, but if Jane needs her volunteer efforts to spice up her job search, she needs to blend in activities in line with her profession. Jane doesn’t want a job in food service or parks & recreation. She wants a job managing marketing campaigns. Don’t you imagine there are non-profits and community groups who could benefit from her skills and allow her to showcase them in a visible way? Can you imagine how using her volunteer time in a strategic way could enhance her brand and make more people aware of her true abilities?

Those who know me are well aware I’ve been on a volunteer mission of sorts for the past 2 years. My background in recruiting and my absolute heartache over the struggles of the unemployed in Michigan lead me down a road of helping displaced professionals get back to work in Michigan. Though playing an active role in helping people get back to work was my first priority, without question my professional image, credibility and visibility have swelled as a result. I’m not looking for a job, yet I’m frequently asked if I’d consider this or that. If the day ever comes when I need or want to work for someone else arrives, I’ll be set with contacts who can help me pull it off in a short amount of time.

My message isn’t that Jane must stop volunteering for things that aren’t in line with her profession, but that she take a moment to consider how she can balance out her volunteer time so at least some of the things she is doing enhances her resume and draws attention to her marketable talents. She’s made the case she’s a giving soul. Now it’s time to make the case she’s strategic.

1 Comment

  • Emily says:

    I completely agree with you and I love that you covered this topic! Strategic volunteering. Get it now. People always ask how they can get experience in the field they want a future job in – volunteer in that capacity! Be a marketing or volunteer coordinator, social media expert, communications liaison etc. the list is endless! I’d suggest perusing the Volunteer Match website for local opportunities. The Greater Lansing Womens’ Center is looking for a volunteering coordinator right now!

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