Friday, July 15, 2016

Advancing Career – Oriented Goals with Skills-Based Volunteering

by Fawn Rasquinha

Many undergrads who choose to volunteer are looking for experience that will supplant their resume, boost their grad school applications, or help them determine whether a particular career path is the right one. When volunteering to advance career-oriented goals, it is important that students choose volunteer positions that will help them hone relevant skills. In what follows, we will explore how to go about identifying valuable skill-based volunteer opportunities.
  1.  Do some industry research. What are the skills and core competencies required for employment in your field of interest? For example, if you want to pursue a masters or career in social work, your research will likely identify active listening, crisis de-escalation, and knowledge of mental illness as some of the skills and competencies needed for this field.
  2. Determine volunteer experiences that will help you hone critical skills and competencies. Skill Plus is a tool developed by that bridges the gap between volunteer experience and career development: Pages 2 and 3 of this document outline core occupational competencies (e.g. project management, client service, financial planning, etc.) and provide links for volunteer positions that employ them.  
  3. Identify organizations the employ a skills-lens. Organizations employ a skills-lens when they emphasize the skills their volunteers need and are committed to promoting the development of these skills.
  4. Opt for a specific position/role, rather than being a jack of all trades. Well-established non-profit organizations typically employ a structured approach to volunteer recruitment and training. Organizations without structure will recruit volunteers without clear guidelines for what these volunteers will be doing. Have you ever found yourself in a volunteer position where you were either (a) doing nothing or (b) assisting with mundane tasks? To avoid this pitfall of volunteering, choose a reputable organization that clearly outlines the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of a volunteer.

Wherever you choose to volunteer, relaying your experience and expertise to potential employers requires understating how to frame volunteer involvement in terms of transferable skills. Think creatively about your experiences and how the skills you acquired could benefit future employers or be utilized in certain jobs. Moreover, be open with the volunteer organization with regards to your career development goals. This will allow the organization to find and provide you with career development opportunities. If you approach volunteering with this mindset and apply this framework to your volunteer opportunity search, you will meaningfully contribute to your career-oriented aspirations.

No comments: