Information, helpful advice, and commentary about topics relevant to relaunchers.

Volunteering Can Lead to Paid Work

Earn relevant experience and valuable contacts

This week's iRelaunch Return to Work Tip of the Week is: Volunteering Can Lead to Paid Work. It is common knowledge at this point to engage in what we call "strategic volunteering" while you are on career break, including while you are in active job search mode. This week I want to highlight real examples of how volunteer work led to paid positions. Since people often ask where to find interesting volunteer work, I will show you an example of a perfect volunteer role that just popped up this week in my local community newspaper.

Cathy Paris took a 17-year career break from her medical social work career to stay home with her children. Wanting to return to the same field, she started volunteering at a local hospice organization. Within six months, a fellow volunteer was hired at another hospice in a paid position to manage their hospice volunteers. She didn't want to take on the position full time so she asked Cathy to share it with her. So Cathy is now in a perfect position when she is ready to take on a conventional full-time job as a medical social worker. Not only does she have two recent, relevant experiences on her resume (the hospice volunteer position and her paid job share), but she is in contact with medical social workers who come into the hospice whenever she is there. They give her job market intelligence on the best employers for medical social workers and who is hiring.

Sara Harnish was on career break from her legal career at a law firm when she heard from a law school classmate who had an interesting career in regulatory compliance and was moving back to Boston to become the Senior Director of the Office for Human Research Studies at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Sara's friend urged Sara to start as a volunteer at Dana Farber to see if she liked the field. Sara agreed to volunteer so she could get familiar with Dana Farber and the regulatory issues involved with cancer research, and they could get familiar with her. Within two months of starting her volunteer work, Sara was hired as a consultant. Ultimately, she was promoted to become the Assistant Director for Non-Clinical Research.

I was paging through our local paper, The Newton Tab, yesterday and found the following entry:
Newton Zoning Reform Group forms  Posted Aug 03, 2010 @ 03:58 PM

Newton —  Interested in zoning reform? (And let’s be honest — who isn’t?) Mayor Setti Warren is looking for citizens to join the newly created Zoning Reform Group for the purpose of developing a plan to reform Newton’s zoning code. Responsibilities would include, but not be limited to, determining long- and short-term objectives; identifying funding options; researching best practices of communities that have undergone zoning reform; and identifying potential resources to assist in the process. Interested parties should e-mail ____ (etc).

For anyone interested returning to a career in real estate, real estate law or politics, this city zoning board would be a good volunteer opportunity both in terms of subject matter and who you would meet as part of your board participation. It is a perfect example of "strategic volunteering." Add city governments to your list of places offering excellent volunteer opportunities. Learn from Cathy and Sara's experiences and search out volunteer positions that could lead to permanent employment. 

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