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How to Select the Right Volunteer Position

For a job seeker or student, volunteering is a great way to give back to the community; but that doesn’t mean you can’t get something in return. Instead of a paycheck, you can get a “warm fuzzy” and experience that might be more difficult to cultivate in a paid position.

Your volunteer time “investment” should pay off

You’re investing your time in any activity you undertake. Your use of time reflects the value you place on it—and yourself. If you need to build skills for your future, you need to find a volunteer activity that will give you more opportunities to develop these skills.

Common skills that can be developed in volunteer work are:

  • Leadership and Responsibility (including Emotional Intelligence)
  • Organizational skills (being organized, multitasking)
  • Negotiation Skills

Getting a volunteer position at a high leadership level is far easier than finding a similar position in the professional realm. In a paid position, a company would enforce stringent standards to be certain their investment in you would be sound. For unpaid positions, an organization does not need to make a great investment in you—and they are usually grateful for your contributions. This also aids in securing references.

It may seem heartless to select volunteer activities based on your needs, rather than the needs of others. Altruism is a quality sadly lacking in our society. I do not recommend abandoning these principles; just hit the pause button knowing you can go back to it when you’re at a better point in your career. And all the volunteer time and skill development won’t help you if you don’t follow the advice of this next segment:

The most important aspect of your choice

So you’ve done plenty of volunteer work, held leadership positions, and now have experience that is not only relevant to your search—it’s recent!

What could be missing?

Your relevant, recent experience will be missing from any job search documents such as résumés, cover letters, and applications if you don’t follow certain guidelines. Per EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines, in order to be able to include your participation, you should not join groups which would reveal your:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Marital Status
  • Physical/Mental Handicap
  • Age
  • Ancestry

It is important to note that if your chosen profession is in one of these categories, volunteer work in that category could be helpful for your chances of securing a position. However, if you change your mind, your experience would become irrelevant.

The GLBT community is currently unprotected by the EEOC. Applicants who include information on membership and work with the GLBT community often face discrimination (meaning their application gets rejected), no matter how unscrupulous such discrimination is. Like the previous categories, if your target position is with the GLBT community, volunteer work in that community could be helpful for your application. If applying for work outside of that community, your work would also become irrelevant.

Get references

Although the importance of securing references is the same with any position—paid or unpaid—it is an absolute necessity for volunteer work since your work cannot be confirmed by tracking your pay. Keep in touch with your references for future contact. Make sure you create a list of the skills you’ve used and quantifiable results you’ve provided so that your reference can include this in the letter.

For more help

For more help with your job search/career search, contact 317-842-8881 to schedule an appointment.