Donating your time and expertise to a non-profit during a layoff isn’t just a good way to stay busy, lift your spirits and earn points with the universe. It can be a career stepping stone.
A story in the March 17 Wall Street Journal – The Laid-Off Can Do Well Doing Good – cites three unemployed executives who say their charity work has given them an opportunity to make new contacts, pick up new skills and advance their careers in ways the working world couldn’t accommodate.
Laine Seaton, who was laid off from her development-management position for an Arizona nonprofit in December, now volunteers about 35 hours a week at five nonprofits. She says that beyond supporting causes she cares about, she’s been able to bolster skills that will help her find a new position.
Her volunteer work with the North Country Conservancy involves setting up a fund-raising plan, grant writing and strategic planning. “In a regular job, you’d need to be a director or management staff to be able to do these types of things, but on a volunteer basis, they welcome the help,” says Ms. Seaton, 41, who says she plans to add these skills to her résumé and tout them in interviews.
Alexandra Lee, who lost her job in marketing, is volunteering at the Denver Red Cross’s public-relations department. She told the WSJ “she has been exposed to elements of marketing she wasn’t involved in before, like analysis of market research. In a recent job interview, Ms. Lee was able to speak about measuring viral-marketing efforts. ‘My volunteer work seems to be falling in place perfectly for some job opportunities,’ she says.”
Lee said she plans to put the volunteer work on her resume, a tactic many executives in the job market, question.
The rule is only if it is related to your career and proves you’re an outstanding asset, said Abby Locke, a career coach. But do it right, she warned in a column, “Resume Tactics for Job-History Puzzles” for TheLadders Career Advice.
Paid or unpaid, industry experience is still valuable — especially for career changers. If you have been involved in substantial volunteer or community work, use these resources to demonstrate leadership skills and experience relevant to your new goals. Take a look at this example of unpaid marketing experience that will boost your executive resume.
“Volunteer, International Dance Group Inc.”
“Marketing and PR Experience” section: Marketing Department, International Dance Group Inc. (2002-2007)
Planned and executed advertising production, marketing materials, public relations programs and other special projects for start-up dance school. Generated creative marketing tactics targeting potential customers and event sponsors. Contributed talents and expertise on unpaid basis.
Volunteering shouldn’t be an afterthought. “If you’re unemployed and an interviewer asks ‘what have you been up to?’ you’re answer better not be ‘looking for a job’ ” one recruiter told me recently. “You need something to show for your time. Write a blog, start your own business, volunteer. You just need some way to account for your months and why not have something that will impress them.