Finding opportunities to volunteer can be key element in job search

Volunteering at a soup kitchen can be good experience for someone considering work in food service.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen can be good experience for someone considering work in food service.

Becoming a volunteer can help you find a job. And a recent study has the facts to prove it.

The results of the study – conducted by the Corporation for National & Community Service, the federal agency dedicated to increasing volunteerism and helping Americans gain the skills, training and education necessary for employment – were released last month. It found that volunteers have a 27 percent higher chance of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. Those without a high school diploma have a 51 percent greater chance of finding work than non-volunteers.

This should be evidence enough to get out and volunteer, but those who need more encouragement will be delighted to find the number and variety of opportunities available. No matter where you live, a wide array of nonprofit organizations and government agencies are looking for assistance with various duties.

Whether you volunteer for an occasional event or on a regular basis, the experience can help you develop new skills and improve the ones you already have. It will also give you an opportunity to expand your network of contacts and, if you do good work, the experience could result in a letter of recommendation or even a job.

Just about every city and area of the U.S. has some sort of volunteer center, with a website that can be searched for opportunities. These opportunities vary widely, from administrative tasks and serving food in soup kitchens to work on heavy outdoor crews and jobs requiring computer skills.

“The most common type of volunteers for us are environmental cleanup types of things, like landscaping or park maintenance or outdoor work,” says Dee Dee Robillard, program coordinator for the Volunteer Center of the East Bay in Walnut Creek, Calif.

“We’re seeing the highest number of requests these days, however, for people who can help with social media. The trend is a desire for people with tech skills.”

The need for volunteers comes from all types of groups. “Organizations that are still the one person who started a nonprofit in their garage to the big nonprofits like the food banks and cities like Oakland,” says Robillard. “It’s good to look at the government agencies that have opportunities, because they tend to lead to connections.”

On her organization’s website it’s possible to search for court-appointed community service opportunities. “Those might be a good start (for ex-offenders),” she says.

To find volunteer opportunities near you, check out Volunteer Match or search the web using the name of your city + “volunteer center,” and you can find a local volunteer center, if one exists, or links to opportunities at individual organizations.


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