5 Reasons to Volunteer While Out of Work

Volunteering Job SearchI recently read an article by Dawn Bugni titled Tips for times of transition: Part Two—Career marketing strategies for job seekers. Number eight of her 10 tips caught my attention; it was about volunteering…while out of work. You might be thinking, “Why should I work without pay?” That’s a legitimate question, but consider the benefits:

1. Volunteering is a great way to do a positive thing. You may consider choosing an organization where your efforts are meaningful in a big way. The Salvation Army comes to mind. Every year around Christmas holiday thousands of volunteers ring the bells in front of businesses. All for the sake of helping the less fortunate get by during the holidays. A customer of mine said she volunteers at a soup kitchen. While she’s an accountant, she has a soft spot in her heart for the less fortunate. This appeals to employers.

2. Volunteer to network for your next job. Choose an organization or business that’s in the industry in which you’d like to work. If marketing is your forté, approach a company that needs a graphic artist or publicist to design some art for their website or write a press release or two. This company that you’ve managed to get your foot in the door can help you with leads at other companies, especially if you do a smashing job. The president or owner will want to help you because you’ve come across as competent and likeable. Who knows, you could possibly join the company if a position opens up…or is created.

3. Develop or enhance some skills that will make you more marketable. You’ve had it in your head to start blogging but haven’t had the time to dedicate to it. The company who took you on as a volunteer in their marketing department not only can help you network; it can assist you in enhancing your diverse writing skills. Your approach might be to offer starting a blog for them, as the rest of the marketing department is up to their elbows in alligators. They gain a talented writer to write entries, and you learn the fine art of blogging. “Tie the skills needed to do the volunteer position back to the skills needed to support or enhance your profession,” says Dawn Bugni. “This keeps your skills sharp. You might learn something new….”

4. Feel useful. Yes, instead of sitting at home and watching The View, you can get back into work mode. Do you remember work mode? It begins with getting up at 6:00am, doing some exercise, leaving for some job from 8:00am to 5:00pm, all the while having that feeling of productivity. When you get home from volunteering, you can watch those episodes of The View on DVR.

5. Volunteering will pad your resume. Yes, employers look at gaps in your work history. Instead of having to explain (or worse yet, not having the chance) why you’ve been out of work for three months, you can proudly say that you’ve been volunteering at Company A in their marketing division where you authored press releases, created their newest website designs, and started them on your way to a new blogging campaign. Of course you’ll indicate on your résumé, in parenthesis, that this experience was (Volunteer) work. Nonetheless, it was work.

Any time you feel ripped off for working without pay, remember why you’re doing it; to do something positive, to network, to develop or enhance new skills, to feel useful, and to pad your resume. If these five reasons aren’t enough, then by all means stay home and watch The View.

Guest Expert:

Bob McIntosh is a career trainer at the Career Center of Lowell, where he leads more than 20 workshops on the career search. He is often the person jobseekers and staff go to for advice on the job search. Bob has gained a reputation as the LinkedIn expert in and around the career center. As well, he critiques resumes and conducts mock interviews. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. These he considers to be his greatest accomplishments. Please visit his blog and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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  1. Bob –

    Thank you so much mentioning and linking to my Tips for Times of Transition series. Your points are spot-on. These is no downside to volunteering. It’s a winning proposition all around. What a wonderful reminder.

    To add to the information sharing, I wrote a two-part series about my own volunteer experience. They reinforce and expand on many of the points you made here. (Great minds! :))With your permission, here are the links to those posts.

    Volunteer to Network:

    Volunteer to Network … continued:

    I look forward to reading more of your wisdom in future posts!! Thanks again.


  2. Great article! My best stories of clients: (1) a software engineer who undertook self-initiated research on an emerging technology, using this as a springboard for interviewing CIOs, getting him visibility and a more senior position in a tech firm soon after; (2) a project manager in financial services volunteered to do PR for chorus in her church, springboarding her to freelance music PR gigs.

  3. Paula McCarron says:


    As someone who has spent years in the realm of working with volunteers, I have to say that I’ve seen many people move from “volunteer” to “employee”. Sometimes volunteering ignites a passion as well as opens new doors of opportunity. I had the opportunity to sit in your programs and meet you at the Career Center (Lowell). Thanks for the good work you do — and yes, I was fortunate to land a new position! What comes to mind is that this article might be the basis for a great workshop at the Career Center and perhaps in addition to running Job Fairs, the Center might consider hosting an occasional volunteer fair or is that something which is already being offered?

    Paula McCarron

    • You’re entirely welcome, Dawn. You gave me the idea to write this blog entry. I believe in the power of volunteering for the reasons I stated above. I look forward to reading you articles on Volunteering to Network, one the best reasons to volunteer.

  4. Wow, Paula. Are you sure you aren’t a workshop facilitator. What a wonderful idea for a mini-workshop, or at least expand on the power of volunteering in an existing workshop. Thanks for your kind words.

  5. Great tips Bob! I often recommend volunteering, or even interning, as “bridge positions”, a way to potentially get your foot in the door even quicker than by simply shooting out resumes alone. If you’re able to do it time and resource-wise, it’s a great way to build contacts, credibility, and avoid employment gaps. Employers want to see that you’re doing SOMETHING in terms of working to keep your skills fresh, and keep yourself marketable. Freelance work is another great option for that as well. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Dana. I think you hit it on the head in saying that employers want to see that you’re doing SOMETHING. It should be job related, but sometimes other opportunities arise and they seem very constructive.

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