Looking for a professionally challenging volunteer opportunity? Skills-based volunteering can be a great job search strategy, a way to gain experience and contacts in a new field or update your skills when returning to the workforce after a lengthy break.
The tricky part is finding volunteer opportunities that are relevant to your career goals.
For example, I have a client who’s looking to volunteer as a curriculum developer. Only a few websites do well with lesser-known occupations like that. Many don’t focus on skills at all.
The following are most useful websites I’ve found for skills-based volunteer opportunities:
Craigslist (Click the “volunteer” link in the “community” category.)
All three of these sites allow you to easily create advanced searches for volunteer roles that fit your skills and geographic criteria. You can save your searches and get notified when there’s a match. Furthermore, on all three I was able to find openings requiring highly developed, specialized skills.
Beyond websites: other ways to find volunteer opportunities.
As with any type of job search, don’t spend more than 25% of your time applying “cold” (without a personal connection) to roles you’ve found online. The best roles are found (or created) through networking and referral. Often, an organization needs help but nobody has gotten around to posting an announcement. That’s where networking can get you in the door.
Make a list of organizations you’d like to volunteer for, and start following them and reaching out to people who might be in any way connected to them. Use your personal and social media networks. Cultivate referrals to managers and seek informational interviews.
Joining a professional association is another great way to make your skills known, spread the word and make contacts. Volunteering for association events is an easy way to build relationship, and working an event is often a great way to attend free or at a reduced cost. Plus, many associations make a point of matching individuals to organizations that need pro bono assistance.
Skills-based volunteering can be a very powerful part of your career development and job search strategy!