Career Advice

Volunteering Your Way Into A Job

Maybe you’ve been selected for a job interview — or several. But you just can’t seem to get past the interview stage and get hired. It may be time to consider alternative routes to get on the inside of a company you want to work for. Sometimes, for instance, volunteering can lead to a full-time position.

Volunteering can be a great way to build your skills and network, ultimately, getting your foot in the door. Here are six steps from Glassdoor, the leading social jobs and career community, to land a volunteer position and transform it into a paid position:

1. Identify ideal organizations.

If your goal is to work at a nonprofit, chances are your employer of choice works with volunteers regularly and would welcome you as a volunteer. But even if you don’t aim to land a full-time job at a nonprofit organization, volunteering at a local charity can lead to corporate jobs, as well by giving you experience in the tasks you hope to perform on the job, and by building your network.

Approach finding a volunteer gig in much the same way you would go after a paying job. That means getting specific about the types of tasks you’d like to do as a volunteer and seeking out organizations that need help with those specific tasks. For instance, if you want to work in marketing or advertising, look for nonprofit organizations who need help with public relations or communications rather than bookkeeping. Finding those organizations will require Internet research and cold calling of nonprofits. Don’t focus only on the large ones; there are likely to be many small organizations in your neighborhood that would welcome the help.

2. Make contact.

Once you’ve identified some organizations that may be able to use your expertise, start contacting them and offering your services. Don’t fall into the trap of agreeing to do volunteer work that doesn’t fit into your skill set or the skill set you want to acquire. Your goal is to get into a company where you can use your current skills or learn new ones, while having at least some face-to-face interaction with people who can help you  transition from volunteer to employee.

3. Listen, learn, integrate.

Once you’ve landed a volunteer gig, focus on using the opportunity to learn as much as you can. That may mean reading up on the organization and its mission, attending board meetings, or just listening to staff members and other volunteers. Treat the experience just as you would a new job — eager to learn about the organization so you can perform to the best of your ability and become an asset to the organization. As you learn new information or skills, work to integrate those things into your skill set.

Keep in mind that expanding your network is one of the most important reasons to volunteer. It’s not uncommon for unemployed workers to spend their spare time volunteering and meet other volunteers in the process who may be able to connect them with employment opportunities, writes Nancy Mann Jackson, a workplace issues writer. In addition to doing your best job at the volunteer work you’ve chosen to do, make an effort to get to know the other people you come in contact with; you never know what good things can come from expanding your network.

4. Go above and beyond.

Just as you would work to impress a new boss, do your best to create lasting positive impressions on those with whom you volunteer. Look for ways to make others’ jobs easier, or offer to complete tasks that you can do easily, even if they aren’t part of your volunteer job description. Be thoughtful of the staff and other volunteers you work with; remember peoples’ birthdays and make an effort to keep up with the important things happening in their lives. People who work hard and go above and beyond the call of duty are always respected, and if you become known as a person who makes extra efforts in your volunteer position, you’ll earn glowing recommendations for the next paying job that comes around.

5. Track your success.

After you’ve landed a volunteer gig, be sure to list it on your resume and profile it on your professional networks, such as LinkedIn. Hiring managers do consider volunteering legitimate work experience in many cases, and most importantly, it shows you’re not just sitting around, but are out there trying to keep your skills fresh.

6. Keep conversations going.

Even if your volunteer position is temporary, don’t lose touch with the people you meet there. Stay in touch with them via LinkedIn or other social media. And rather than only asking for their help in finding a job, look for ways to offer help to them as well. For instance, you might send links to articles that you know the nonprofit organization’s executive director would enjoy reading, or help a fellow volunteer’s child land an internship with your former employer. People will remember those who remember them.

By following these tips from Glassdoor, you may just land a great volunteering position that flourishes into an even greater paying position.