How to volunteer

Amy White |
Categories: Job Search Tips

"What can I do to make my profile more attractive to employers?" It's a question we get a lot from job seekers. The answer is surprisingly simple: add volunteer experience. If you're one of the millions of unemployed Americans, or if you're returning to the workforce after an extended absence, your volunteer experience can be the one thing that sets you apart from the competition.

Check out these three volunteer opportunities. They'll look great on your profile or resume, will make you feel good and just could help land you a new job.

Volunteering at a school

It may not have occurred to you that you're getting real-world work experience when you volunteer at a school - whether in your kids' classroom or at a needy neighborhood school. Volunteering at a school shows you can handle many tasks (and many children) at the same time, that you have a lot of patience and that you work well in a busy environment.

Here's how this can help you get a job: When describing this experience to employers, be sure to focus on the responsibilities you had, any administrative duties you managed and any teaching you did. Working with children is extremely hard work, so don't downplay it by saying, "I was just doing it for my kids." Instead, get specific. Say something like, "As a teacher's assistant, I helped execute the lesson plan, supervised 30 children and implemented a reading contest that was later adopted by the entire school." As a bonus, this is great experience for anyone considering education jobs at a daycare or preschool.

Volunteering at the food bank

Food banks around the country always need people to help sort food, run food drives and distribute food to nonprofits and families. This volunteer position will show employers that you are not only a compassionate person, but that you're a hard worker who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done - even if it involves sorting canned goods for 8 hours a day.

Here's how this can help you get a job: Talk about the specifics of your volunteer work. Stress the amount of work involved and explain that you had to balance many things all at once - this will help you show off your organizational skills. Numbers are also great to mention because it's proof that your work made a difference. Say something like, "I helped to organize and distribute more than 1,000 food baskets for the needy,” or “I ran several successful food drives; the drives I organized brought in 20 percent more canned food than normal." Remember, just because it's a volunteer position doesn't mean it's not work. This is also, incidentally, exactly what stock clerk does, so you’d be perfect for a job stocking shelves.

Volunteering at a hospital or nursing home

Giving your time to a hospital or nursing home is a great way to help the lonely and the sick. Depending on your role, you might end up directing hospital visitors or playing cards with elderly Alzheimer's patients. This volunteer position shows employers that you're not afraid of a challenge and can handle difficult medical situations with ease.

Here's how this can help you get a job: Detail any medical experience you received, especially if you're applying for healthcare jobs where medical training is a plus. Also be sure to tell employers about any ongoing responsibilities you had, like administrative work or leading resident activities. Planning a trip for 20 nursing home residents is no easy feat, so make sure employers know how well you handled it all. Say, "I organized a month of activities for 30 residents. I was responsible for planning day trips, buying craft supplies and getting the word out about every event. And I did it all under budget.”