The job market is increasingly competitive. In many cases, education and acquired skills are just not enough to find meaningful employment. What often sets people apart is experience, or lack there of. It is especially difficult for recent graduates and those starting new careers to find the kind they need to get started.
Postings on job search websites like Workopolis and Indeed are primarily those that require at least one or two years’ experience. And making contacts is difficult if you have never worked in your intended field. Volunteering is sometimes the best and only way to gain the experience you need. Here is a list of ways volunteering could help you land a job.
Volunteer coordinators will often ask what someone hopes to gain by volunteering. Why? Because, there needs to be mutual benefits. This is in part to determine whether you are likely to stay with them for a long period. But, it is also meant to make sure the volunteer gets something out of the experience. And for this to work, the volunteer needs to have an idea of what kind of job they are looking for. For example, if you want to be a job developer, a community organization seems like an obvious place to start. These days even professional careers like paralegal and accountant may require some volunteering. Find the right fit.
Build Soft Skills
The so-called ‘soft’ skills like communication, computers and working well with others are too often overlooked by jobseekers. Soft skills are essential, especially for people new to the job market. Employers want to know if you could function in a particular work setting. Skills like Microsoft Office were once seen as specialized but are now becoming essential. Volunteering could also help you understand the type of skills employers are looking for in your field. That gives you a good advantage.
Build Hard Skills
The days when a person with a high school education could start in the mailroom and finish in the boardroom are gone. Today’s economy demands specialized skills. It always helps to know what skills are in demand in your chosen field. The job market is also a numbers game. First, think about what specialized skills you have that are relatively rare and that you could develop? And second, what can you offer the economy? These skills are often taught in schools which makes it more important that you have practical experience in using them.
Do you ever wonder how a particular person found a job? Chances are they met the right person who referred them. The vast majority of entry-level jobs are not posted on websites. An employer’s first thought is to look at the people around them. That is why meeting contacts that are already established in a field is so important. After at least three months at a volunteer position, it is completely within your right to ask for a job. And remember that your contacts might know others that are looking to fill a position. Thread carefully but remember that you have a lot to offer an employer.
Decide on a Focus
Lastly, volunteering could help you decide on the position that is best for you. Many people graduate from school and have no clear understanding of what career they want. It is important to have some idea when you are looking for a volunteer position. Enter your degree in a search engine like Indeed and take a look at some positions that appear. Print out the outline of the positions you are interested in. Finally, go find volunteer positions that match those required skills.