For anyone looking to switch careers or get their first one rolling, getting your foot in the door is often one of the toughest challenges.
Many industries and lines of work offer murky guidelines and pathways for novices looking to get experience and establish themselves in the industry.
In some cases, it can be hard to get a job without any experience in that field, and this can quickly create a paradox in which you need a job to get experience, but you also need experience to get a job.
So what’s the alternative? Committing your time to volunteer work offers a potential solution. Although the lack of income might present issues for you, organizations in need of volunteers often aren’t as discriminating as businesses looking to hire people. You might have an easier time finding volunteer opportunities relevant to your desired career fields and offering much-needed experience to help you progress toward your goals.
And if it feels like volunteering doesn’t carry the same weight as job experience, think again. Such an opportunity offers practical experience in the field and also tells potential employers a little bit about your character.
Self-discovery as a volunteer
Obviously, a big benefit to volunteering is the ability to experience a potential industry without the same level of obligation as a paid position. But it also lets you learn more about yourself — by working in an unpaid position where service is emphasized, you can assess your true passion for the work you’re doing. When you find yourself being asked by potential employers to demonstrate your passion for a given position, you can point to your commitment to volunteer work as a prime example of your work ethic and dedication.
Present your volunteer work on your resume
Some people question whether volunteer work is worth listing on a resume, but there’s a simple answer: If it’s relevant to your desired line of work, include it. Volunteering is nothing to sniff at, especially when it’s related to the professional work you ultimately would like to do. For example, working in a classroom or as a teacher, whether you volunteer abroad or domestically, is every bit as valuable as working as a paid paraprofessional in a classroom setting. And if you want to work as a veterinarian, time spent in an animal shelter or other animal care facility will be invaluable in demonstrating your familiarity with the industry.
Volunteering vs employment
In the end, the difference between volunteering and employment — at least in terms of your application materials and experience — are limited, outside of the fact that your ultimate goal is to get paid for the work you do. What matters most is getting direct contact and involvement in the areas you want to work. If you’re truly passionate about your desired career and can swing it financially, don’t be discouraged by putting in time as a volunteer.
Not only can volunteering be a great way to position yourself for a rewarding career, it can serve as a refreshing break from paid employment. Providing service to needy individuals and organizations can provide a sense of fulfilment that’s hard to find in the working world, and the goodwill inherent in a volunteer setting can be infectious. Use this period of time to rejuvenate your own spirit and inspire yourself for the road ahead — all while opening doors for your future.