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Using Volunteer Work to Help You Land a Job



Article  
Using Volunteer Work to Help You Land a Job
[1/18/2005]

Source: LIFELines

By Ann Wells for LIFELines Every year, volunteers donate millions of hours in workplaces across the nation. Volunteers are a driving force in today's professional environment - yet employers, employees and job seekers alike often overlook volunteer work. Whether you are entering the workforce for the first time, re-entering after a long absence or changing careers, consider your volunteer work as real work experience that can help you get the job. Volunteer Work Is Real Work Mothers who work as the treasurer of a school's PTA are performing real bookkeeping and accounting functions. Spouses who volunteer as financial counselors at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society act in the same capacity as paid financial counselors. Individuals who volunteer to teach adult literacy are providing the same services as paid teachers. Volunteer work is real work and should be considered in the same light as a paying job. If you want a potential employer to consider your volunteer work as qualifying experience, you must treat it so yourself. Include volunteer work in your résumé and accord it the same treatment you would a paying job: Provide information on the job title, dates and details of work performed. Where To Go For Help If you are not sure how to accurately describe your volunteer service, there are several resources available to assist you. Make an appointment to review your résumé with a counselor from the Spouse Employment Assistance Program or the Transition Assistance Program at your local Fleet & Family Support Center (FFSC) or Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) or Army Community Service Employment Readiness Office. Online résumé builders can be found at several web sites. Go to the LIFELines Résumé Section for a variety of informative articles. Basic office software often includes a résumé template, which can be an excellent starting point for creating a new résumé. Career reference manuals, such as a Dictionary of Occupational Titles, contain detailed descriptions of thousands of jobs and services. Look up the type of volunteer work you are performing and find ideas to accurately describe that work on your résumé. Review sample résumés available in career reference manuals at the library, bookstore or the FFSC. Look at several samples and determine what kind of résumé best suits your needs. Be sure to ask your volunteer workplace supervisor for a written reference. A written evaluation of your work is an excellent method of marketing yourself to potential employers. If you are new to the workplace, a strong recommendation is proof of your value to a potential employer. Sell Yourself Once you have made it through the résumé process, it is time to focus on the interview. When you meet with a prospective employer, it is important to remember that one purpose of an interview is to sell your experience and talents and show how you can benefit an employer. Many interviewees have a tendency to be shy or modest. This is not the time for modesty! Before your interview, sit down and think about the scope of your volunteer work. Do not discount it just because you were not paid for it. When asked about your previous experience, answer in the affirmative and describe your achievements in terms like these: • "I have been working as a volunteer at our local credit counseling office. I have worked with more than 40 families to get them out of debt." • "As a volunteer, I have been creating my church bulletins for the last four years, using a variety of desktop publishing software. My writing, editing and publishing skills are very strong." • "I have decided to become a teacher as a direct result of teaching adults to read for two years as a volunteer." Volunteer work is an excellent opportunity to give of yourself while simultaneously developing or maintaining a professional life. You are developing and fine-tuning marketable skills. Whether you volunteer for humanitarian reasons or to gain hands-on training in a new field, remember, you are performing real work and gaining real experience.

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