Thursday, February 19, 2009

Volunteer your way into a new job

he current recession has turned almost all of us into career counselors for our family, friends, and even the person sitting next to us on the train as we go to work. Those of us who are employed, and those of us in the employment industry, are particularly sought after as those who are less fortunate than us justifiably see us as being important points of contact in their search for a new job.

One of the most common questions that I’m getting asked these days from college students searching for internships and recent graduates hunting for entry-level jobs is how to get an internship or entry-level job if they don’t have any experience and they’re hearing from every employer that they don’t have enough experience. The answer: volunteer.

That’s right, volunteering some of your time to a favorite non-profit or even a small business is a great way to find a new job. How? Well, let’s say that you’re an accounting major who has not yet completed a good accounting-related internship. Volunteer to do the books or taxes for one or more non-profits or small businesses. You’ll find plenty of eager takers especially now with money being so tight for so many. In addition to getting the great experience that employers so crave, you’ll also be in a great position to meet more of those employers.

When you volunteer for non-profits, be sure to network with the members of the committees and boards as the people who serve on those groups tend to be movers and shakers in the community. Many will be businesses owners, executives or managers and will either be interested in hiring you to work for their organizations or will likely know vendors, clients, or even competitors who could benefit from your skills.

I recognize that most unemployed people do not have the funds to volunteer all the time. They need to spend most of their time searching for work. But virtually all who are unemployed can spend 30 to 40 hours per week searching for a job by networking, pounding the pavement, and applying to advertised jobs and spend an additional four to eight hours per week volunteering.

And if you volunteer your time in a thoughtful manner by networking with members of the committees and boards, you’ll almost certainly find that great new job a lot faster than those who just sit at home all day applying to jobs which are advertised on-line.

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