By Melissa Cardin
In today's job market, it seems that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people applying for the same jobs. If you've been out of work for a while, it's possible to feel like your skills might not be up to par for some of the positions you are interested in.
This is where volunteering comes in handy. It can be a great way for you to give back to your community, as well as keep your work skills fresh. Here are four benefits you could reap from donating your time and effort.
Keeping Up Your Good Work Habits
It's easy to fall out of a routine when you aren't working. By setting a volunteer schedule of multiple days during the week, you stay in the habit of getting up on time, getting ready for the day, and being punctual. It will also give you a chance to keep using your "soft skills," those that are not directly related to one job, but span across many fields (such as customer service and time management). This is a chance to practice all of the habits and skills that can make you a valuable employee.
Staying Up to Date with Technology
If your work history is in a field where the technology constantly changes, volunteering can help you stay in touch with the latest and greatest equipment and software. It also gives you a chance to practice using technology that you may not be familiar with. For example, different medical offices may use different record keeping software. When you're ready to apply for a job in that field, you may now have a working knowledge of several different kinds of software used for the same task, making you more marketable to more employers.
If you can volunteer in a place that needs help in an area that you are skilled at, i.e. computer work, answering phones, or filing, it can give you a chance to hear about potential job leads. It's okay to let the people you're working with know that you're looking for a job. If you do great work for them, you'll probably be one of the first people they tell about new positions opening up, either within that company, or at another company that they know of.
Gaining a Positive Reference
If it's been several years since you worked with the last boss you have listed as a reference, volunteering gives you a chance to update your reference list. Do you show up every day as scheduled? Do you get your work done in a professional way? Do you always have a positive attitude? These are all things your supervisor can speak to, even if you're "just" a volunteer. Be sure to ask your supervisor if you can use him or her as a reference.
Because many non-profits have had to take large budget cuts due to decreased funding, many will be more than happy to have a volunteer on board who has a lot to offer. If you want to find a place that is looking for some help, a great place to start is the website for your local United Way office. They partner with many organizations that need your time and talents.
Get started with volunteering, and start building a new road to employment!