Volunteer Your Way to a Paid Job

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Times are tough. Too many eager (and qualified) job seekers are chasing too few jobs. Even in healthcare, which is expanding, most nursing job applicants not only have college degrees (associate, bachelor and even master), they also have experience, the one thing you may be lacking. So there you are with the old Catch 22—you need a job to get experience, but can’t get a job without it. What to do?

A recent study by the Corporation for National and Community Service revealed that unemployed job seekers who volunteer improve their chances of finding a job by 27%. Makes sense. You’re working in the field, gaining experience, networking, boosting your skills virtually every day. Add 6 months to year of that to your resume and suddenly, you’re a serious “employable” candidate. That said, you’re not the only one pursuing the volunteer-to-job route. So how do your separate yourself from the pack and turn your volunteer work into a full-time paying job? Some suggestions:

Show Passion and Commitment

Being passionate about your desire to help people drove you this far, but you have to keep that passion level up, even when the work gets boring, tedious or physically and emotionally challenging. Leadership consultant Katie Snapp, owner of Better-Leadership.com, offers some interesting insights about Developing Passion for Your Work. Supervisors will often test your resilience and dedication by seeing how you hold up doing grunt work. Show your commitment to the work by arriving a bit early and staying a bit late every day. If you can’t make it on a day you have a school exam or other conflict, give your supervisor plenty of advance notice.

Network and Connect

Volunteers are often shuttled about from one area to the next to help out where and when they're needed. If you’re being circulated in this way, push yourself to be as outgoing as possible and connect with everyone you work with. Talk to them at break time, lunchtime and after work. Ask and learn as much as you can about how they got started, how they moved up, and let each know you’re interested in pursuing a full time career. Volunteer to attend any training programs the organization offers. Finish this training and add the certificates to your resume.

Dovetail Into the Corporate Culture

Every organization has a unique corporate culture. Some run a super tight ship, others are a bit loose around the edges. Learn to adapt to the culture.  Attend the team-building functions, volunteer for some activities. Let people know your name, get on activities’ lists, and be a “player” for fundraisers and other charitable causes. In Fit In! The Unofficial Guide to Corporate Culture, Mark Williams offers hints on some of the unwritten, informal rules one needs to follow to fit into the corporate culture of an organization (see the chapter entitled, “I’m only Trying to Help”).

Let Your Skills Shine

You may start off doing tons of grunt work, but turn each task into an opportunity to showcase some aspect of your developing skill set—things like listening, doing precisely what’s asked of you, and finishing each task on time (or even ahead of time). If you’re asked to do several tasks, use the opportunity to demonstrate your organizational and multi-tasking skills.

Want to turn your volunteer work into a full-time paid job? Follow the steps outlined above and get to work.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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