LinkedIn now makes it easier to find volunteer opportunities. Gain access by going to http://volunteer.linkedin.com or by clicking on the “Jobs” menu option, selecting “Advanced Search,” “More Options,” and then entering “volunteer” in the job title. LinkedIn has partnered with some major volunteer matching sites to make this happen. Here’s why this feature is so great.
First, there’s the obvious reason—that LinkedIn is making it easier for non-profits and altruistic individuals to find each other. And of course you get the benefit of LinkedIn’s ability to leverage your network to find out more about an opportunity. Beyond that, however, if you are thinking about changing careers or industries, or are re-entering/new to the job market, volunteering can be your ticket to the job you want. Here are a couple of client examples:
Example 1: Transitioning into a New Field
Ben had been working 50+ hours a week as an intellectual property attorney for two decades. While working full time, he was looking to make a major career transition, into a “community relations” leadership role at a hospital. On the surface, it seemed like an almost impossible transition, given the very different knowledge and skill requirements. Here’s what he did, over a period of two years:
- He volunteered his time at a community reinvestment association, eventually becoming a board member.
- He joined the board of another health care non-profit, eventually being elected president and recruiting a number of new members by building ties to the community.
Ben did not list this experience in the “volunteer section” of his resume and LinkedIn profile. Instead, he listed it at the very top of his professional experience (since it was as current as his attorney experience). He also highlighted his new “community relations” and “health care” experience right at the top of both his resume summary section and his corresponding LinkedIn profile summary section. He knew that the hospitals who might hire him were interested first and foremost in the experience he had that would enable him to help them; NOT whether he was paid for this experience!
Ben also made sure to use the language and keywords of the job he was going for, not his last job. This means that Ben de-emphasized his expertise in Intellectual Property, since this experience wasn’t relevant for his job target. Instead, he emphasized his ability to build relationships and serve in leadership roles.
Ben’s transition was hard, in the sense that he had to manage his volunteer responsibilities on top of his full-time job. But ultimately, the two years of extra work paid off; he found the career he was seeking, and the much greater job and life satisfaction that came along with it.
- Consider putting volunteer experience on top of your resume and LinkedIn profile, highlighting the experience in both the summary section and in the chronological section.
- You don’t need to advertise that it was “volunteer experience,” i.e. that you weren’t paid for it; That is, don’t diminish what may be highly valuable, relevant experience by labeling it “volunteer.”
- Emphasize the skills that are attractive to your job target, de-emphasize those that aren’t.
Example 2: Re-entering the workforce after years of absence
Sarah, an accountant, had dropped out of the work-force for 10 years to raise a family. Now she was ready to jump back in. But in her initial forays into the job market, hiring managers were skipping over her resume in favor of candidates who had more current experience.
Sarah filled that gap by joining a non-profit as a volunteer accountant. She immediately listed this new, highly relevant position at the top of her resume and LinkedIn profile. And importantly, she made use of the summary section, where she pitched herself as the consummate accountant, further diminishing the significance of the gap in her resume. By the way, the ties she made in this organization led her to the full time job she was seeking.
Additional Lessons learned:
- Volunteer assignments can fill a gap in your resume, making you appear more current.
- The relationships you build in your volunteer assignments can land you your next position.
I’ll be talking a lot more about advanced features on LinkedIn that can help you with a job search in my upcoming webinar.