|Is unpaid work or volunteer work part of your career transition plan? Read this article to learn how to assess opportunities. Avoid potential pitfalls and learn how you can benefit professionally from donating your time, skills, and expertise.
||Career & Work Life Matters
ISSN 2150-6299 Vol 2, no. 5
|Are you one of the 26%? This is a recent estimate by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the number of individuals who volunteer at least once a year.
Clients who are seeking a new direction in their career often ask “Should I volunteer?” The answer depends on your motivation and goals.
A recent issue of Career Planning & Adult Development, focused on volunteering and careers. Volunteer work has also been part of my own career transitions. If you want to go a bit deeper into this issue, consider the 3 questions below to help you decide what is right for you.
1. What’s the best way to choose a volunteer opportunity?
There are many different ways to volunteer. You can use your network, approach organizations directly, set up your own initiative, or use a service that matches individuals with what organizations need. Whichever approach you take, it is important to look for a role that fits with your strengths and interests.
It is essential to do some research before you take on a position. Once you have identified some areas and organizations of interest to you, use the following 4 questions to assess whether the role is likely to be a good fit for you. These questions are derived from the 4 principles used by Volunteering England as a guide for volunteer activities.
If you have specific career goals in mind don’t assume that you will get the opportunities you want. Get the information you need to make an informed decisions before you accept the position. Remember principle 3 above. The benefits should be reciprocal.
2. What are the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering has many potential benefits. In fact, research shows that volunteering can enhance your health and well-being.
Volunteering is also an opportunity to engage in activities to support your career development. If you want to test a new area of work, beginning with unpaid work will give you valuable first-hand knowledge and experience. Here are some of the ways in which volunteering can support your career development.
3. How can I be successful as a volunteer?
Say you decide that volunteering is a good option for you. How can you be successful? Assuming that you are already in an appropriate position, you can be successful by applying the same principles as you would in any professional environment. Take time to listen and learn the culture of the organization. Because many organizations have experience of volunteers that come and go, you may need to “prove yourself” first.
If your career development is a key motivating factor for you, it is important to monitor your own progress. Are there mentors available within the organization? Do you have a plan to record your work? Think about ways in which you can document your experience so that you have evidence to present to a prospective employer. Examples might be a portfolio of work you have done, recommendations from clients, managers, and colleagues. It’s easier to document these as you go rather than try to reconstruct them later. Many organizations formally record volunteer hours, but it is important also to collect information specific to your own experience.
When you are volunteering, it is essential to consider how much time you want to devote to your volunteer work and to other areas of your work and your life. For example, if you are actively searching for a job, that is a full time job it itself. Be sure you allow the time you need for other activities that are important. This includes tasks directly related to your career and other activities such as exercise that are important for your health and well being.
|Share your experience:
Have you had experience of doing unpaid work for career purposes. What were your goals? What did you learn that might help others to enhance their career through volunteer work?
Use the box below to share your experience below.