Times are tough. You’re having trouble finding work. You have a HUGE employment gap. You need to build your resume.
And then there’s the secret rule most employers won’t tell you: Bosses prefer to hire someone who is already working.
The best way to make sure that your employment gap doesn’t become a Grand Canyon is to give it away: volunteer.
Volunteering not only helps you improve your resume, but you can do something good at the same time. You will make some excellent contacts and references.
Here are a few places to look for volunteer opportunities:
United Way: The United Way represents a bunch of different organizations. Contact them and ask about volunteer opportunities. Very often, they will ask what it is that you know and can do. You might find yourself doing something for free that you are hoping to do for money. That’s fine. Prove that you can do it and someone will hire you.
Volunteermatch.org: The power of the Internet has been brought to the volunteer opportunities that exist in the world. Volunteermatch will help you line up your interests and skills with the needs of organizations in your area. It’s free to use and is very intuitive.
Remember: Just because it’s a volunteer gig doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Get there on time; dress the part; work hard.
Make sure after you have been there for a couple of weeks to ask permission to use your supervisor as a reference. They might even be willing to write you a letter of recommendation.
Track the hours and times that you work. This information that needs to go into your resume as soon as you have even a couple of weeks on the job.
When you are asked in interviews, be honest: “I was having a hard time finding work. I didn’t want to get rusty and knew that I could share my talents with an organization that needs them. So I have been working with __________ for the last six months. It’s been great and I have been able to make a difference while I look for work.”
Every city has its own clearinghouses for information and opportunities. For example, http://BostonCares.org coordinates over 25,000 volunteers each year.
Don’t sit idle getting rusty. There are thousands of people in your area who could use your help. And we promise, you will get far more out of it than just some resume talking points. You might even find your new calling.
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