For job seekers, particularly those who have been on the market for longer than they had planned, the notion of giving their time without salary or any other financial benefits, can seem a fool hardy idea. If there are incidental expenses involved (travel, meals,) then the notion seems even more far-fetched.
Not for profit organisations and charities offer a range of opportunities to volunteers, not just for unskilled work. Volunteering can offer significant development possibilities even for those at a more senior level.
- There is a shift of focus – from self to others. So whether in employment or out of it there are considerable advantages. For the job seeker it can be a constructive diversion and alternative to “busy-ness ” my term for unproductive activity usually internet usage, cunningly presented to self and others as focused job search effort. It also distracts from negative introspection and provides balance.
- Networking – it leads to extending networking reach and the raising of visibility in a different sector.
- Social – simply meeting new people and potentially making new friends, reduces isolation.
- New skills – can be acquired particularly at a managerial or project management level.
- Fills the CV gap – this is seen by any potential employer or head hunter as a constructive way of filling any gaps in your resumé. If you are taking a parenting gap – it is a great way to demonstrate that you have stayed in touch professionally or acquired new skills. Go one step further and make it part of your strategy.
Third Sector organisations can require very different people management skills. Working with volunteers who are donating their time and who will not always respond to hierarchical imperatives – even unstated ones! Do this because I’m in charge doesn’t work. Paul Woodward CEO of the charity Sue Ryder told me:
“Managing and motivating volunteers demands a different approach from managing a team in the business sector. If a volunteer doesn’t like a certain management style they can simply walk away leaving a manpower or skill set gap, which is not always easy to fill. Volunteering can definitely help to hone soft skills and broaden the managerial perspective on how to lead a team. ”
If the cost of travel is an issue contact the head office in the first instance to establish if they have other locations in your area. Look into car pooling. Perhaps they need remote support. Take a packed lunch and a thermos of coffee or water. You would have to eat anyway! Perhaps the organization can help with expenses. You can always ask.
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But even for managers who are firmly on a career path but confined to the straight jacket of their schedules and responsibilities, volunteering becomes one of those ” do later” options which they never get round to. There are so many reasons to re-consider that position.