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Using Volunteering to Create Momentum in your Relaunch

Volunteering during your break can serve many purposes – fill up your time, support causes you believe in, make an impact, etc. You can also use your volunteer experience to prepare for a successful return to the paid work force.

By Kendell Brown

Kendell Brown is a member of the iRelaunch Career Coaching team. Founder of Ascension Careers and a relauncher herself, She works with clients with to ascertain and achieve their career goals via strategic planning, positioning and branding assessments, identifying transferrable skills and providing counsel for working through challenging work situations. Kendell is an iRelaunch professional resume writer and offers discounts to the relauncher community. Learn more about this service here.

Volunteering during your break can serve many purposes – fill up your time, support causes you believe in, make an impact, etc. You can also use your volunteer experience to prepare for a successful return to the paid work force. Here’s a list of several tactics you can employ to make the most of your volunteer time. I conclude with 2 questions to my clients often ask about volunteering during a career break.

Expand your skill set

Is there experience you’d like to get before getting back to paid work? Find a volunteer project where you can indeed do that work. Volunteering will help you use, build and strengthen your new skills. Leverage the experience to fill in experience and/or responsibility gaps.

Try something new

Volunteering is a low risk, high reward way to test whether you really want to move your career in a different direction. I can’t tell you the number of clients that I’ve coached that said “Well, I was doing some volunteer work and they didn’t have anyone to do X. So, I did it. And I realized that not only do I like X, but I’m pretty good at it too."

Meet the (right) people

Volunteering is an ideal way to expand your network. Connecting over a shared passion is less stressful and more natural than over coffee. Also staying in touch is easier when you are working with and interacting your new contact on a regular basis. Let’s say you want to establish a reputation in a new work arena. Volunteer with organizations that have a tangential relationship to an industry that interests you. If you moved during your break, don’t limit yourself to one organization. Spreading your volunteer time amongst several organizations, guarantees you quickly build a large network.

Refresh your skills

Time waits for no one, right? If you left the workforce 8, 12, even 3 years ago – you may not be up to date on the newest terms, trends and advances. While the fundamentals of your work haven’t changed, there’s probably a few nuances that have. Finding some volunteer experiences that allow you to do what you were doing before the break and familiarize yourself with the way things are done now versus when you left.

Position for promotion

Were you at the cusp of a promotion before you left? Maybe, the only thing missing was managing direct reports. Find a volunteer project leading a team. Treat the volunteer team the same as you would a group of direct reports. The experience can translate and put you in contention for a re-entry promotion.

2 Key Questions:

  1. Can volunteering be bad for your relaunch plans? I have numerous clients that leveraged the volunteer work they did during their hiatus to successfully return to work. Consequently, I always recommend clients spend some time volunteering. My only caveat – if you cannot spend adequate time job searching due to your volunteer responsibilities, it's time to take a step back. Once you’ve settled into the new job, you can get back to volunteering.
  2. Is it too late to start volunteering? If a client is worried that she hasn’t done anything (her words, not mine) during her break, I recommend - volunteering. Surprisingly, clients often resist my suggestion. Why? Clients worry that it will appear as if they are trying to “pad” their resume. To be honest, that may be true. However, the confidence relaunchers get when reinvigorating, refining and sharpening their skills doing volunteer work far outweighs any negatives from when they started volunteering.

Don't relaunch alone!

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