The Richmond Register

July 19, 2013

Volunteering your way into a new job

Jennifer Napier
Columnist

RICHMOND —

Have you ever thought about volunteering your time, but not sure where you would like to volunteer, or what you would like to do?

Do you have a passion for working with the elderly?

What about organizing and planning activities for children? Do you enjoying watching a face light up as adult learns to read or operate a computer for the first time?

How about cultivating an outdoor garden or serving as a trail guide for inexperienced hikers?

What about teaching a new art skill to someone who has never had the opportunity to learn the skill but always wanted to?

Do you like to coordinate projects, plan fundraising events, or mentor someone with an interest in a skill you have?

There are endless possibilities of ways in which you can volunteer your time to serve others, as well as pass along information that may fade away with your generation over time. Volunteers are important to a community’s well-being, prosperity and growth.

In times past, volunteer service used to be viewed as a past-time for retirees or housewives, but with the major shift in the economy, it has become a way to learn new skills, meet new people, and network for job leads.

Volunteering also develops a sense of self-worth and confidence. It allows you to give back to your community, teaches you to not be selfish and instills a sense of hope in others. When you change your focus from it’s all about me, to it’s all about how I can serve others, you become the person an employer wants to add to their payroll.

Service organizations needing volunteers and employers recruiting workers are all looking for the same top quality – someone who is eager to work.

Employers want to hire workers who like to work, can get along well with others, are well rounded and remain active. When a person volunteers their time, they tend to update their skills, meet lots of new people and expand their network of contacts.

If an employer reviews a stack of applicants who are all qualified for the position, they’ll look for the unique qualities that set them apart. Those who regularly volunteer their time for a worthwhile mission tend to stand out to an employer in a positive way.

By volunteering, you can explore new work environments or work with populations that you may not otherwise get the opportunity to work with in your current job.

If you’re unemployed, volunteering can help you build employable and in-demand skills, or allow you to meet a variety of new people. Extending your circle of contacts and verifiable work references will improve your odds of landing a job much faster, but the impact you’ll have on others, through unselfish volunteer service, may last a lifetime.

Don’t know where to start? Check out local non-profits, elder care facilities, schools and civic clubs.

Volunteering is also a way to meet new people who share your same interests. Be prepared – you might make a new friend!