How Volunteering Can Help You With Your Job Choice and So Much More!
By Lynn Miner-Rosen, MEd, ACC, CDCS
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Finding the right specific career choice is hard for many people. That is a universal truth, but you rarely hear it spoken aloud. What you may not realize is that the executive functioning challenges associated with ADHD can make that search even harder. Although I am making that very clear from the get-go, this is not a doom and gloom blog about the challenges you may face. This is a blog about improving your chances in the ever-changing world of the 21st-century job market.
One of the insights I find helpful for many of my clients is that, sometimes, you have to try a few things out to find the right fit. Volunteering your time is one of the best ways to “try on” different jobs. Volunteer work is an easy and great way to experience different things, build a variety of skills and learn so many new things in a low-risk, low-pressure environment. All of your experiences and skills are great fodder for your cover letter, resume, and job interview.
Benefits of Volunteering:
It can help you meet new people of all ages.
It helps you become more well-rounded as a person.
It teaches you how to value work for its own sake.
It shows future employers that you are not a self-absorbed person and that you think of others.
It can help you network and make new connections with people that can be key in finding a job!
Let’s flip the script and consider things from the interviewer’s point of view. If I were an interviewer and I looked at your resume and saw volunteer experience, my first thought would probably be that this interviewee is a giving person, enjoys helping others, and does not work solely for the paycheck. I might also assume that this candidate is likely a well-rounded person that values giving back and self-improvement. You do not have to mention on a resume or interview how much money (if any) you earned in the process.
“Alright, Lynn,” you are hopefully saying at this point. “You’ve sold me on the idea of volunteer work, but where do I start?” Well, I have bad news and good news for you there. The bad news is that you may have to reach out to several different organizations to find a place that is a good fit for you; it might not be as easy as filling out a form online. The good news is I can point you in a few good directions.
The first and most obvious place to go is a charitable nonprofit. Nonprofits are always looking for more help; send out a few emails to your local animal shelter, soup kitchen, library, or community center. You can also visit your local church or place of worship. Even if you choose not to volunteer there, they are sure to be able to direct you to other local organizations. If you would prefer to volunteer from home, you can reach out to many different nonprofits online to see if you can help with fundraising or grant writing. Google is your friend with that one.
The last, and perhaps best, lead I can provide is for a type of organization you might not even have heard of: volunteer agencies. Volunteer agencies work the same as job-search sites except for volunteering. There are nationwide sites like VolunteerMatch or the federally-run Volunteer.gov, as well as state-wide and local agencies. If you are having trouble finding somewhere to volunteer, these sites are great resources.
So, what is the key takeaway? If you have some extra time on your hands, you can add some spice to your life (and your resume) with a bit of volunteer work. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work out, and you try a new location the next day. When you are volunteering, keep in mind that you are not just doing it for yourself; you are making a meaningful contribution to the wider world.
One last thing to remember: just because you are not filling out a tax form does not mean that it is not true labor. Nonprofits are ready and willing to work volunteers to the bone. So, make sure that you get at least a good reference letter out of it.
Do you want more help finding the perfect organization for you? Download our free worksheet for more resources that can help!