How Can Volunteering Help With My Job Search?

Senior Airman Sean Martin/Air Force

Dear Career --

I've been looking for work for a while now, and a couple of people have recommended that I do some volunteering to help with my search.

I get how volunteering can help fill my time, but how can it honestly help my job search? I thought I was supposed to view the actual act of looking for a job as my full-time position right now.

-- Unsure in Yuma

Dear Unsure --

I'm actually a HUGE advocate of using volunteer work in your job search. This can actually do a few things for you.

First, it does the obvious that you already mentioned: It gets you out of the house. So many of us want job searches to be easy, automatic and online. I just really don't think that's where it's at.

Networking is key, and guess where you can network? At your volunteer job. In fact, this may be the MOST valuable thing when thinking about volunteering and job-seeking. If you volunteer for something you LOVE, you may also just stumble onto your next job opportunity. You need to be telling everyone what you're looking for anyway, and now you've just increased your audience. Before you know it, abracadabra a la Kevin Bacon, someone will make an introduction and you've got a job.

Volunteering can also get you relevant experience to put on your resume to fill the gaps. I know folks are skeptical about this, but if you choose your volunteer opportunities wisely, this seriously can work.

Are you a social media genius? Offer that talent to a local nonprofit. Are you great at graphic design? Offer to make fliers and other marketing materials for the PTA, Spouse Club or other organization.

Do something related to what you're pursuing career-wise, and it most definitely will be useful on your resume.

Finally, volunteering can be your zen. Job searching is so stressful and often weighs down your mind very quickly. Use your volunteer time as a mental break. Help others. Pet puppies. Do whatever makes you feel good and revel in that feeling for a while.

So there you have it. I hope that gives some insight on why folks (including myself) are recommending that you look into some volunteer opportunities to help your job search.

Let me know if you have more questions and good luck!

-- Career

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