Volunteering to Explore Career Possibilities

Are you looking to start a career or to change jobs?

Volunteering is a marvelous way to explore possible career options. It is relatively risk-free in that you can sample a career field or setting without making a long-term commitment to it. This allows you to discover whether or not you like the area of work or are good at it and if you discover it's not for you, you can move on without disrupting your resume or your cash flow.

On the other hand, if you find the role exciting, you can increase your volunteer commitment so that you learn even more about this new career field and your talent for it. Eventually, volunteering may lead you to a paying position by providing contacts, references, and something tangible to show on your resume.

For new graduates, volunteering can show prospective employers you have practical skills, can function in a work environment, and care about your community. If you have been out of the work force while raising a family, redundancy or took a leave due to illness or bereavement, volunteering is a way back into the work place. It gives you the opportunity to develop self-confidence and prove that your skills are still alive (or lets you get back up to speed on new-fangled developments such as computers and faxes). For the active retiree, volunteering is a second (or third or fourth) career the chance finally to do what you thought was closed off to you because of job choices you made long ago. Experiment with volunteering and keep your talents youthful.

Volunteering is only career exploration if you consciously select assignments that:

  • place you in the type of setting you want to learn about,
  • let you work side by side with professionals you can observe and who can answer questions you may have about their career,
  • ask for as much training as you can get,
  • ask to be "promoted" to tasks of greater challenge so that you can truly use the volunteer experience to document your accomplishments to a prospective employer.

You will learn the most by involving yourself in causes and agencies you want to help succeed. So while you gain career exploration, the agency gains a great volunteer a win-win situation.

Edited from Susan Ellis - Energize Inc.