5 reasons job seekers should volunteer

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.

13 thoughts on “5 reasons job seekers should volunteer

  1. Deborah

    This is the second time I’ve read an article promoting this model of volunteerism-to-employment. It offers great promises upfront, communicating to the volunteer that he has the power to make a more-informed choice through testing their organization. I bought into this framework before ever reading any of these articles, and I say definitively not true! This is a marketing campaign that does not reveal the other truth, which is how damaging an employer can taint your reputation if they don’t see you as a fit to their organization. That’s the true purpose of this framework model! I highly suggest people stay away from this practice. If an employer needs help and want to test their employees first, they should hire a temp! This is a win-win for the employer, the job seeker, and those who work and run temp agencies. Again, I highly advise against this practice.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Deborah – I’m not suggesting voluneteering in a business or company which could hire employees but in a not for profit organisation or charity which are reliant on volunteers to function. Hope this helps.

      1. Deborah

        Hi Dorothy, I didn’t mean to come off so strong. Yes, it does help, but I still advise people to proceed with caution. I did this for a faith-based organization, and by the time I realized why things were going sour, I had invested four plus years of my time and life with negative consequences. Last December I applied for a nonprofit that I volunteer for every year. When I received an email asking me to work for them as a volunteer to “show management” my abilities, I declined. I was never contacted again. I’m not saying this can’t work; I just want others to be more fully aware of why it doesn’t. Thanks for listening. You are gracious.

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  3. Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach

    I think volunteering is a great alternative to nothing, especially for expat following partners who can’t find a job in their host country. If you don’t speak the local language, you can always volunteer at international organizations such as women’s clubs or NGOs. Great tip, thanks Dorothy

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Anne – thanks for your comment. I agree for anyone with any sort of CV gap then a useful volunteering role could help with acquiring new skills and the transition itself. Having been in that position myself (twice) I know ho challenging it can be.


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