The job market in this tough economy is the worst in years. So if you’re one of those seeking but not finding work, what can you do besides continuing your employment search efforts? Consider volunteering. While I was unemployed last year, I became a proud volunteer. After my husband and I were notified that we were moving overseas to a geographically separated unit (GSU) far from traditional military support outlets, I immediately researched employment opportunities in the area and there were plenty, but for non-English-speaking candidates. I continued seeking employment as a foreigner by applying for local management and HR positions, without any successes – no returned calls and no email responses. After working in the Human Resources and Career Services industry for several years, I knew that I would have some explaining to do regarding my employment gap the next time I had the opportunity to apply and interview for a job in the United States, so I considered searching for places that could use my skills and expertise at no cost to them.
I started my volunteer efforts locally assisting unit spouses with basic resume building and interview skills coaching. I expanded my efforts on the management side by offering to facilitate a pro bono Behavioral Interviewing seminar for NATO Executives and Senior Military Officers. To my surprise, they accepted my offer! Not only did they feel the material would prove beneficial toward upcoming recruiting efforts, but the training team for the organization encouraged me to author AND facilitate a two-day workshop. I thought, “What did I get myself into?” I was now committed to research and create all training material to include training booklets, handouts, and videos, while keeping it interesting and valuable for an audience comprised of various European nationals. Wow! This brand new experience for me proved to be successful and extremely rewarding.
I wanted to continue building my professional skills through volunteer efforts on a smaller scale and decided to get back into mentoring and career coaching for Military Spouses and became a Military Spouse Virtual Assistant (MSVA), offering my professional expertise online to those that could benefit from it. In January 2009, I became a proud volunteer for the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN), assisting Military family members, one-on-one, with resume and career coaching… and I absolutely loved it. I am now consulting for the MSCCN as an independent contractor pursuing my Career Services and Employment Consulting career using the skills and education I developed while working as a volunteer.
Volunteering created opportunities for me to test out different career options, gain practical experience and acquire skills related to specific types of employment I was interested in and now have a passion for. As a result of the invaluable experience and skills that I acquired through my volunteer efforts, I have a clearer understanding and appreciation for the Talent Management aspect of Human Resources and continued to focus my career and professional development efforts in this area.
Volunteering fosters skill development and practical preparation for employment opportunities… Give it a try!