Many university graduates and even individuals who have left work to go back into education to chase their dream job will find themselves within the old cliché: You must have experience to get the job yet you must have a job to get experience. What a vicious cycle!
So how can you break it?
Find the best and most suitable job you can and volunteer, work your way into the position and build some experience in the mean time.
1. It puts work experience on your C.V.
This is the most important strategy in your job search right now, especially if it’s the only thing keeping you from landing that dream job. Even if it’s just a few hours a week, your C.V. will now say “XYZ Company January 2013 – present” instead of having a big gap. Way, way, way better than having no current employer on your resume, which is an automatic deal-breaker for many recruiters. Added bonus? You will probably learn a thing or two, which builds your C.V. and makes you that much more marketable to employers.
2. It enables you to line up solid references in your field of choice
If/when you need someone to vouch for your skills in this new industry, volunteering will provide you with experienced people who have seen you in action and can recommend you for that job. Think about it… most new grads look exactly alike on paper. Your recommendations and references could be just the thing that separates you from the rest (side note: make sure to add these recommendations to your LinkedIn profile while you’re at it).
3. It allows you to build your network
We’ve all heard it before: it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know. In a bad economy / job market, those words were never more true. People are hiring employee referrals because these referrals are a known quantity and there’s much less risk. If you don’t know many people in your field, then you are at a distinct disadvantage. Volunteering allows you to grow your network (in real life AND on LinkedIn) and you can now leverage those connections to network, find out about new positions and be at the forefront of people’s minds if/when they learn of a new opening. Don’t be afraid to get the word out that you’re actively looking for that foot-in-the-door position.
4. It shows your passion for what you want to do
“I love nursing (or whatever it is that YOU do) so much that I would do it even if they didn’t pay me.” Even if that’s not EXACTLY true, this is the message that volunteering conveys. How wonderful is that? You are suddenly much more attractive to future employers because they want those top performers who love what they do, not the employees who are just phoning it in.
5. It keeps you busy and keeps your spirits up
There’s nothing worse during a job search than getting up every morning with no where to go. You lounge around in your pj’s, mope about the horrible situation, pop online to try to find a job, end up getting discouraged and it’s just not good for your self-esteem or mental outlook. How are you going to be able to sell yourself to employers if you aren’t in a good place? Volunteering gets you out of the house, doing the work you want to do and staying busy. You will keep your batteries recharged and, let’s face it, volunteering just feels good. Give and get back.
6. It puts you at the top of the list if a job becomes available
Picture it: there you are, volunteering at that company and suddenly an opening becomes available. Do you really think they’ll just go with an unknown person over you? Assuming you fit the requirements for the role, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be hired since you’re right there in front of them and have already proven your skills, your dedication and your passion for the role. It’s also a great way for them to say “thank you” for your time and effort! You never know, they might even CREATE a job for you that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Knock their socks off and they’ll want to keep you!
Have you ever volunteered to change careers or land your next position? Any tips for us? Tell us about it!