Volunteer Your Way into a Second Career
There are many reasons why volunteering is a wonderful idea – improving your community, giving back, sharing knowledge, empowering others, instilling a sense of achievement. We are not talking about any of those here, however. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on how you can volunteer your way into a second career.
So often women find themselves in their current career, unhappy, and searching for something new. Something fulfilling and meaningful to them. After a decade or two of real-world job experience, the career path you chose straight out of college no longer meets your needs.
Maybe, you have had a career in corporate marketing, but decided that you are more interested in helping people. Possibly you had a job in retail, but want to get into something that involves the outdoors. Or perhaps, like Alicia Sabella you worked in high fashion, but parenthood unveiled a new passion, in helping women through the struggles of feeding their newborn.
Volunteering could be a great option for you.
Working as a volunteer in an organization related to your interests offers multiple benefits when looking for a second career. This is especially true if you are looking to try something totally new, in a field or industry that you have no experience in.
Why Volunteering Before a Career Change Makes Sense
The biggest benefit of volunteering before committing to a new career is simple – you can find out if you like.it. Volunteering is low commitment, but offers valuable exposure. During your volunteering, you can determine if the job is really what you thought it would be. You’ll learn first hand the pros and cons of the new job. You can evaluate whether you gain the sense of fulfillment or satisfaction that you are seeking – and determine whether it is enough to merit the risks of changing careers.
Volunteering also gives you a chance to develop skills and gain experience before venturing out on your own. You may discover that the job requires strong presentation skills or public speaking ability. Or you need to learn how to navigate administrative red tape or governmental regulations. Dabbling your foot into the industry as a volunteer allows you to build these skills under the tutelage of experienced guides.
Spending time as a volunteer arms you with the knowledge you need to make serious decisions about your own career.
- Is this the right path for you?
- Can you make enough income following this passion?
- Did your experience meet, exceed or fall short of your expectations?
It is important to fully take advantage of any volunteer opportunity. Treat it like a real job. Show up on time. Build relationships and form a network. You would be surprised how small an industry can feel in one area and the reputation you build while volunteering can go a long way to helping launch your new career.
In many cases, it may be possible to leverage a volunteer position into a full or part-time role. Make sure to let your manager know that you are interested in pursuing this as a more committed option. Treat the volunteer tenure as a chance to demonstrate your value. Highlight any skills that you bring to the table and let your performance and positive attitude win them over.
Are Internships and Volunteering Equally Valuable?
This is a tricky question, but the short answer is that they both offer value when changing careers. Many industries don’t accept volunteers, so pursuing an internship is a great option. Internships are especially useful when completely changing course, where you have no real transferable skills.
Later in life internships do have some drawbacks, however, including their reputation. If you are pursuing an internship, be open and honest with the employer about what you are looking for, which skills you want to develop and what your long-term goals may be.
Finding a Volunteer Opportunity
There are many resources available to you for finding volunteer positions in your area. Depending upon where your interests lie, look into a listing of local charities and 501(c)3 organizations. Many of them are constantly looking for help.
Many volunteer positions are also posted on traditional job boards. Similarly, Google can be your friend. Simply search for “volunteer” in your area and see what options pop up.
Scope out similar companies in your surrounding areas and talk to their owners or managers. Many of them may be willing to have extra help, especially if you are not looking to compete with them in their market area.