Turn Your Holiday Volunteer Work Into a Resume Builder

For many nonprofits the holidays are the peak season ushering in an increased volume of donations and volunteer service hours. It’s also the time, for many nonprofits, when the populations they support are most in need of the aid they supply. Some nonprofits collect food, coats, boots, gifts and an array of other items, others implement holiday programs or projects at fine arts venues, schools, community centers and churches. Nonprofits reflect the needs of their communities. Furthering their missions is a noble endeavor that can also be good for your resume.

Americans have historically been resounding in their service efforts. According to Charity Navigator, 2013 saw approximately 62.6 million Americans volunteering an estimated 7.7 billion hours. Those hours of labor add up to an estimated $173 billion.

The holidays are a great time to jump on the bandwagon. Keep these tips in mind to make your efforts mutually beneficial for you and the charity you choose.  

Find cultural fit

Be as reflective with the service opportunities you pursue as you are with the professional opportunities you seek. Do your homework as you consider which charity you would like to support. Attend one of its events. Talk with someone who works or volunteers there. Get a sense of what the organization is like before you pledge your time and energy towards furthering its agenda.

You want to make sure that the organization is well run and that it has a good program for volunteers. Charity Navigator’s “Guide to Volunteering offers some additional considerations.

Find a volunteer position that suits you  

Volunteering is valuable on your resume only if it adds to your professional skills. Make sure that the work you will be doing is resume-building. If you are looking for an accounting job, for example, a volunteer position hauling boxes may show a hiring manager that you are a nice person but that doesn’t tie your skills to accounting. A volunteer position that does this would be a better use of your time. If the volunteer coordinator needs someone who can inventory those boxes, then you may have found a resume-building volunteer job.

You may be surprised to find that most nonprofits interview volunteers. This is a good thing. It gives you a chance to discuss your professional needs and goals with the volunteer coordinator who can then fill you in on what the organization needs, allowing you to find a mutually beneficial role.

Be ready to go the distance

Make a commitment that is independant of your job search. Sure, things might change; in fact, hopefully they will and you will find yourself busier than when you first took on this volunteer job. But take this position with the aim of being loyal to it and fulfilling your obligation to it, even if your job situation changes. You are not just taking this position for the holidays or for the resume-building perk it may afford you. Nonprofits need the help of experts like you. So plan to stick with this and make this position your own. Be proud of this. You are doing important work out of the kindness of your heart. That’s impressive as well as resume-building.