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Network by Volunteering

Monday, February 01, 2010

One key networking option is often overlooked: Volunteering.

Volunteering isn’t likely to get you a job directly, but it’s a low risk way to expand your network, showcase your skills, and gain some solid experience.

Imagine spending 2 or 3 days a month volunteering. It’s not a huge commitment, and it doesn’t matter where you do it. You can volunteer at your favorite charity or nonprofit, or you could volunteer at a private sector company in an industry you hope to learn more about. Many organizations need help, and if you’re willing to give your time for free, most people will gladly take it.

Try building it into your schedule – maybe every other Tuesday is volunteer day.  Chances are, you’ll probably find that you enjoy it. There are other people around, and they appreciate what you’re doing!

But the key is that volunteering can benefit you as well.  For one, you’re out and about in the world, meeting people and learning.  But that’s not all.  Everyone you meet while volunteering has a network, and the chances are they will introduce you to their connections or give a strong recommendation for you.  Finally, in the job search, it’s valuable to be able to say you’ve been up to something productive in the months since you were last employed. Recruiting Directors and Hiring Managers love to see candidates that take initiative, and volunteering shows that you weren’t content to sit around and wait for the phone to ring.

If you’re considering incorporating volunteering into your job search here are some things to keep in mind:

•    Where you volunteer doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as the effort you put forth while there.
•    Work hard; it will pay off. Most people don’t have high expectations for an unpaid volunteer.
•    Keep your eyes and ears open. You never know what can happen, and something might open up while you’re there.
•    The number of hours you spend volunteering matter far less than showing up consistently.  You’re not obligated, but coming back week after week shows commitment.
•    Have fun with it. Everyone appreciates being around a content worker.

So get out there and enjoy yourself. You’re sure to get a lot out of giving your time.

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