Most of us have a charity or group where we volunteer our time and efforts. In the midst of a job search, particularly a stressful one, it would seem natural to dial back your involvement. But, this is one place where you shouldn’t retreat. The relationships you have established – even if new or underdeveloped – in the places you volunteer can be extremely powerful in your job search. Increasing your involvement can very well lead to a job offer in a place you never expected to find one.

Winning Hearts and Minds

Get-to-Know-the-Customer-AudienceThe closer you work with fellow volunteers, the better they will get to know you. And, let’s face it, people help and hire those they like. Give people the opportunity to get to know you – not your tails of unemployment. Like we discussed last week, remember not to dwell on the fact you are looking for a job. You want everyone to think of you in terms of the great addition you would be versus the person who is always talking about being unemployed.

Words and Deeds

wordsanddeedsThe interview process is a two-way street. You size up a future employer just as they do the same to you. Both sides are trying to figure out if the other “walks the talk.” By working side-by-side with someone in a volunteer capacity, you get to see if someone’s work ethic is in line with yours. Moreover, make sure you are gravitating towards those that give 110%. Good people always know good people.

Do What You Know

nosoupWhen volunteering, most people think in terms of what the Not for Profit does as a function: soup kitchens need help in the kitchen, Big Brothers/Big Sisters need adults to sponsor kids, etc.. But shift your mindset to what you do best. If you are in accounting, volunteer your time to help with the books. A sales professional would be a great fundraiser or trainer of other fundraisers. You will not only be showcasing what you do, but your value-add to the organization will be even greater. Not to mention, you increase the likelihood of interacting with Board Members – who might have a connection or two. Talk about the “hidden” job market.

It Doesn’t Always Have to Be a NFP

options-webThe key here is to get you out using and contributing your skill set. When you list yourself as a “consultant” or “freelance” on your resume, no one is going to ask what you were paid. The closest you will get is “what’s your bill rate?” The bottom line is that you can contribute your expertise wherever you like and you are only limited by those who won’t take you up on your offer. This is also a great way to develop some new skills and subject matter expertise that you might be lacking – volunteer to work on a project to get some OJT.

If you have been thinking of retreating from your volunteer commitments in order to focus more time on your search – Don’t. Get more involved, make more connections and leverage your skills set in doing so. It is a win-win for everyone involved. Not only might you find a job in the process but you will do some great work to feel good about in the interim.