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Strategic Volunteering to Build Your Career

Strategic volunteering is a great way for all relaunchers to show recent work experience. For military spouses who move frequently, this opportunity can be particularly helpful.

By Diana Jacquith

Diana Jaquith is the Executive Director and founder of WISE Advise + Assist Team, a virtual agency of military spouses and veterans. An engineering graduate of Vanderbilt University, Diana has a demonstrated history of working in the outsourcing industry, helping businesses scale by utilizing military spouse professionals.

"How do I get experience if no one will hire me?"

It's a question that I hear quite often amongst the military spouse community. Blue Star Families’ Military Lifestyle Survey consistently identifies employment as a top concern for military families. Challenges to obtaining employment may be attributed to frequent moves, lack of affordable, quality childcare, and attending to family obligations when the military member is deployed, on temporary duty assignment, or working unconventional hours. Employers may be cautious about hiring a military spouse because he or she may only be in the area short term, and/or need a lot of time away to attend to childcare needs and family obligations.

This conundrum is frustrating, primarily because it’s part of a vicious circle: if you don't have experience you won't get hired, and if you don't get hired, you don't get the experience. How does one circumvent this cycle? One possible solution might be strategic volunteering. Volunteering your time in the areas you want to grow provides a venue to develop the skills you desire while benefiting an organization or cause that you are passionate about.

Volunteering opportunities are plentiful. Moms can volunteer for PTA and fundraisers. If you attend church, you can volunteer with young and old, and provide meals to those in need. Military spouses can help his or her base Spouses Club, which raises money for scholarships for military kids. The possibilities are endless. Be careful, though: if you say yes to every opportunity, you will eventually burn out and spend a lot of time doing things that do not interest you. Instead, choose volunteer roles with a strategic focus in mind, increasing your skills and sparking your passion.

Strategic volunteering is the act of intentionally seeking to volunteer in areas you want to improve or grow. If you want to work on your email marketing, volunteer to take on the PTA newsletter. If you want to be a better baker, manage the bake sale at school. If you want to work on your public speaking, be the president of the women's group at church. For me personally, volunteering helped me start my business and even secure my business partner. I improved my project management, web development and design skills through volunteering for the military base Spouses Club. I became quicker and more elaborate in my design. Also, my business partner was the President of the Spouses Club, and I watched her eloquently lead meetings and inspire others to rally behind a vision. I am grateful for that year of volunteering, because it has set my business partner and I up to work together in a strong partnership.

In addition to the experience and skills you gain, strategic volunteering can be a huge asset to your resume. While you may not have been paid for the skills you learned during your volunteer hours, you earned them and can apply them to any job in the future. Volunteering also helps to increase your network and polish your resume. No matter what season of life you are in, you can always grow and learn where you are planted by making wise choices with your time and opportunities.

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