Why Volunteering is One of the Best Things to Do During Your Job Hunt

When you’re job searching, you have lots of downtime. Things may be moving forward, but not as fast as you’d like. So, how do you stay sharp while waiting for that next-steps phone call? How can you use your new skills productively, without limiting your opportunities? After I finished the Koru program, I was in that boat. I had interviews lined up, but lots of time in between. I happened upon the website of KEXP, Seattle’s listener-supported radio station. They needed volunteers for their fall member drive, so I signed up for their earliest slot, thinking at the very least it would get me out of the house, and I’d likely meet some cool people. I’m a morning person — why not use my powers for good? Volunteering is like working out; you accomplish something, it makes you feel good, and you need to do it frequently. Just like any network, you need to sow your oats to make a difference — and an impression. People need to know your name, or at least your face. Seize the opportunity to make yourself indispensable, and when you do land a job, you’ll have a kind of confidence your new boss can’t help but notice. It’s not about personal glory, of course — volunteering is a chance to wolf down some humble pie, something my Koru coaches highly recommended for me. Whether you’re making coffee, handing out food, or helping to process donations, get some grit under those fingernails. You’ll meet a ton of people with really hard jobs, and you’ll want to make their work possible, their lives easier. Treat your volunteer post like a job, because in a way, it is. You’re there to free up the administrators for decision-making, and there’s an enormous amount of dignity in that. So don’t just show up, or show up often, really make the place your only concern while you’re there. Any millennial can stand off to the side, tapping around on his phone. You know better. Leave the box in your coat pocket or bag, and don’t go back for it. You’ll learn more, faster, and meet more people who can help you in the future, not to mention the great impression you’ll make.

A quick promo video for KEXP. You can see me headbanging briefly. #glory

You’ve covered your bases, made your connections, and showcased your grit. How do you turn your work into a new job? Believe it or not, your new contacts know how you feel, and they want to help. Nonprofit people constantly have to reach out for dollars or favors, so whether it’s with a piece of advice or a referral, these folks can be your greatest allies. Be suggestive without being demanding and always listen. “I’m currently on the hunt, what do you suggest?” is infinitely better than “Can you please pass my resume along?” Luckily, volunteering puts you in a situation where people care. In the most organic way possible, keep them updated on your progress. Always have a “give” before an “ask.” And if an opportunity emerges because of a connection you’ve made, always, always write a thank you note. How did volunteering at KEXP help me land a job? I volunteered often enough to show off my strengths, and messed up often enough to treat feedback as a gift. My supervisors gave me opportunities to work alone and as part of a team. Best of all, my mentors at KEXP knew my skill set so well, they were able to provide positive references and advice once I’d gotten an offer. One of them had done the job in question, at the same company, for four years. Talk about a solid connection! So if your career has stalled, it may be time to revisit your talents, build a new network, and unlock your passions. A few hours can make a world of difference, not just for your community, but for yourself as well. Put yourself out there. Solve a problem. And get ready to show your grit.

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