Do any of the following apply to your current situation?
- Are you are waiting for your Employment Authorization Document?
- Are your English skills not strong enough to get a job?
- Have you recently immigrated and unsure of what to do next?
- Are you looking for more information about an occupation or an industry?
- Are you struggling to put together your work reference list?
If you answered Yes to any one of the questions above, I have great news for you. There is something very productive you can do now with your time, which will help you to get a job – you can volunteer.
In fact, volunteering increases your odds of employment by 27% percent! (Credit: National & Community Service). So, let’s look at the details about
Three ways Volunteering helps you to get a job:
- It improves your English skills
- It helps you to explore new career options
- It eliminates gaps on your job application
Volunteering improves your English skills
Develop industry-specific vocabulary. One of the huge advantages of volunteering is learning industry jargon. The matter of fact is, most American employers will expect job applicants to have some level of industry-specific knowledge of jargon and terminology.
For example, if you are applying for a job as a pharmacist or a nurse you are expected to freely utilize certain medical terminology that will make you stand out as a healthcare professional. For most of us it is a challenge. Unless you received specialized training or attended medical college in America you may struggle to pass the interview process and get a job. Volunteering aids in this issue and helps you to learn and expand the industry-specific vocabulary and become more familiar with common terms, which in turn will improve your chances to get a job.
Gain self-confidence. I personally struggled with this one too. My language skills were poor so tend to keep quiet when I met new people. The reason was, I did not want to start or engage in the conversation when I struggled to understand what was said and could not speak well. This is an issue since the shame of sounding stupid kept me from practicing.
On the other hand, as a volunteer, you will interact with other native speakers. Most likely you will find that most Americans will be quite excited to hear your story and get to know you better. You will start speaking more and more. Over time your English will improve dramatically, which in turn will lead to more employment opportunities later on.
Volunteering helps you to explore new career options
Try a new occupation for a fit. One of the most incredible and unspoken advantages of volunteering is to try on an industry or an occupation for a fit. For example, if you are considering becoming a nurse, it might be a great idea to volunteer at the closest hospital. Before you invest several thousand dollars in your college degree, try the occupation on and see if you like it first.
In our example, while volunteering at the hospital, you might learn about hospital culture, policies, expectations and typical jobs available. You will gain much better understanding of work schedules, salaries, educational requirements, and advancement opportunities.
Learn new occupations and upgrade your work skills. This is one by far, one of my favorite, and by far the coolest thing about being a volunteer. At no charge, the non-profit organization will teach you new work skills.
For example, if you serve as an admin volunteer at the Food Bank. You most likely will be trained on how to complete all day to day admin-related tasks, such as answering phones, create appointments, respond to emails, book conference rooms for meetings, set up Go To Meetings and so on. Additionally, you will become more familiar with internal processes and procedures and many other details on internal operations. At the end, all this knowledge will give you an edge during you job search process and will make you a stronger job candidate.
Volunteering eliminates gaps in your job application
Build your job references. As we discussed, the lack of job references is a stumbling block for most immigrants. The great news is – volunteering eliminates this challenge. While serving as a volunteer you will meet, connect and build relationships with dozens of people. Eventually, some of your colleagues will most likely agree to serve as your job references during the job application process.
Eliminate Employment Gaps on a resume. Human Resource managers have a distaste for long gaps in employment on the resume. They do not like it and they look down on candidates with employment gaps over a few months. The gaps communicate instability and lack of ambition. Volunteering addresses the employment gap challenge since you can list your volunteering assignment as an actual position on the resume.
Gain U.S. work experience. Again, Human Resource managers tend to give preference to candidates who have some work industry-specific work experience, since that portrays intent and long-standing dedication to the chosen occupation. Your volunteer experience will be convincing evidence that you understand the field you are entering and more importantly have real work experience in it.
Gain first preference. You might not be aware, but for most organizations, it is much more cost-effective to fill a job opening by hiring a volunteer than an outsider. Companies spend an enormous amount of money on recruitment and on-boarding of new employees. HR Managers have an annual staffing budget and hiring a volunteer significantly reduces their staffing cost, which is a highly positive event. So, when a new job opportunity becomes available, assuming the job requirements align with your qualifications, you might be the first in line to get the call.
The greatest secret of all is the simple act of Volunteering increases your chances of getting hired by 27% compared to other candidates.
Serving as a volunteer in your community also will improve your English skills, help you to explore new career options and will eliminate gaps in your job application. Finally, volunteering will give your career a boost and help you to get a job faster.
My first encounter with volunteering was in 2014 when I met Christina, a United Way volunteer coordinator at the local event. After the event, she stayed longer and we chatted about the United Way. She shared with me a few ideas about volunteering opportunities. At that time I was on maternity leave and my son was three months old, so I had no plans for going to back work, but was bored at home.
After I got home, we connected via email and she agreed to meet. Few weeks later I started to serve as a board member-volunteer at United Way Weld County and continued my service for over a year. To this day, I am very grateful for this initial introduction.
For the past four years, I served in many volunteer positions. I contributed as a board member, Goggle Map Local Guide, personal finance workshops facilitator, marketing strategist, startup mentor, database developer, social entrepreneur mentor, data analytics guru and college student career development mentor. It might sound like a lot, but most of my roles did not take more than 1 hour a week, or even less time. Today, I volunteer at Guadalupe Community Shelter as a chef. My job is to prepare and serve dinner to 40-50 folks, including families and kids.
The volunteering experiences changed me. I personally love to be a volunteer. During past four years, I met hundreds of amazing people, learned half a dozen of new skills, attended a few cool events, and developed newfound happiness in giving I never felt before.
Of course, in addition to personal fulfillment, my volunteer friends became a source of my job references, college application recommendations and so on. Volunteering also gave me focus, confidence and the tools I needed to launch my career forward. I hope it will help you as well.
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- Five career transition mistakes you don’t need to make
- Five actions to take before you apply for a job
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