Volunteer to Career: 6 Tips to Help Make it Happen

Many people take their first steps into the charity sector through volunteering. And it’s not unusual for people to become so comfortable with their volunteer role that they want to make a career out of it. You’re dedicating your best hours to a cause that you believe in. Hoping to make a difference, improve your skills and get noticed by the organisation of your dreams.

But now you want them to really take notice of you. You can’t wait any longer to get a permanent job position, one with salary and really transition into the charity sector. So let’s see if you’re doing everything in your power to make it happen.

# 1. Choose the right volunteer opportunity

Some people underestimate what it truly means to be a volunteer and take up any role that they can. And while that’s fine for those who just want to help, it isn’t a good move if you’re taking your first step towards a long-term job.

The volunteer opportunity that you apply for should be one that’s aligned with your key skills. That’s to say, you have two possibilities here. One is to go for any volunteer role within an area that you’re familiar with (e.g. communications, digital). Then you can invest in some serious networking and climb up from there.

Another option is to get a position with a similar description given to the job you want to have in the future. This way, you will be building your portfolio and adding skills to your CV that you can show off later.

# 2. Don’t hide in the backstage

Just because you’re volunteering, doesn’t mean that you should pass by unnoticed. Many people go through moral dilemmas when they consider being on the spot and feel that their role isn’t as significant because they’re not being paid. But the thing is that there is nothing wrong with meeting new people and letting them know what you can do.

One of the benefits of volunteering is that the charity sector is usually an industry of frequent meet-ups and conferences. So use them to your advantage to learn and make networking a priority. It’s important that potential recruiters know about the contribution you’re making, as meeting people gives you an advantage that many other job seekers don’t have.

# 3. Shout that you’re available

One more thing on letting people know: Don’t just ensure that your favourite organisations know that you exist and good at what you do. Also, tell that you are looking for opportunities directly. Don’t feel uncomfortable about making your availability clear – it’s in your best interest to look for a role that offers the fulfilment that you’re looking for.

The only issue here is if the position you are looking for is available in the organisation that you are volunteering, but you’re also interested in working elsewhere. Then, you will need to be more discreet – and prepare what you are going to say in case they find out that you are looking for a job but decide not to apply to them.

# 4. Look for specialised support

Not-for-profit organisations have their own mindset.  They’re looking for people what are committed to their cause and are prepared to support them. And, if you aren’t familiar with their culture and values you risk not appearing to be a great fit.

So, if you come across the job ad that you’ve been looking for, dig a bit deeper and find people who can give you an insight into the roots of the organisation. Look for someone who has been working in the charity industry so they can tell you what to include in your CV, from skills to experiences. Work on creating the perfect cover letter and talk to a recruiter to prepare you for the interview.

Remember that your personality is as important. So, references that can vouch for it are also highly recommended, along with those that will tell about your skillset.

# 5. Take your volunteering work very seriously

A mistake that people make is not taking their role as a volunteer seriously enough. Some feel that not being paid means that the standard of work doesn’t need to be as high, it’s OK to be late, or not offer any ideas or solutions that could improve their own tasks.

The last thing you want is to be considered as lazy, lacking motivation or for people to think that that’s the very best you can do. Every moment that you spend with that organisation should be spent giving them reasons to consider keeping you – so use the time wisely and always think about how you can contribute to making it a better place.

# 6. Show passion for the cause

You’ll hear this time and time again in the charity sector, simply because passion and concern for a cause is at the heart of what all organisations do. If you want to get hired and build a career in the not-for-profit sector, you need to prove that you are passionate about the cause, no matter which one you choose.

People who dedicate their lives to charities are there because they believe in the relevance of what they are doing. That they can make a difference in other people, countries, or animals’ lives. So, if you don’t feel like this, it might be better don’t waste your time.

To sum up

Starting a career in the charity sector requires a lot of hard work and dedication. And there’s so much for you to be aware of. Always remember that networking is key to working your way into the organisation of your choice and that you shouldn’t be afraid of asking if opportunities are available, directly.

It’s also helpful to find someone who’s already in the sector to advise you on CV, cover letter and, interview tips. And, above all, you need to prove that you believe in the cause and that you are ready to dedicate your life to it.

If you get these things right, you’ll soon notice that doors are opening for you.

Kerry Creaswood

Kerry Creaswood is a successful writer and blogger. Her topics of interest are career and education. To find more about Kerry – check her Twitter

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