Volunteering My Way to My Future Job

The following blog is by Aleisha Leemain.jpg

It was only 30 seconds and it wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

If you attended YNPN’s EDGE event on interviewing techniques and resume writing, I was the Nervous Nelly holding the microphone, wrapping up the discussion panel portion and transitioning us to a break. Public speaking might be a breeze for some, but I have an enormous fear of speaking in front of groups larger than two. How did I take on my fear and end up in front of 70 of you? Volunteering!

I recently finished my Master’s program in Human Resource Development from the University of Minnesota, and have been looking for a job in HR for just under a year. Through my search I’ve discovered that there is perhaps nothing more satisfying than giving, especially when you’re unemployed.

Those of us who are in the search know that it’s rough out there. Laboring over compelling cover letters and perfectly-tailored resume day after day, combined with weathering continuous rejections can be very discouraging. The volunteer work I've done throughout my job search has not only helped me preserve my sanity and self-esteem, but also provided me with opportunities to sharpen my skills, expand my network, and uncover potential opportunities.   

Sharpen your skills

Volunteering has definitely made me more marketable in my job search. I’ve taken on several technical writing projects, which provided me constructive feedback on ways to fine tune my writing abilities. In fact, by guest blogging here I’m learning about a new way to write (grad school doesn’t teach blogging) and share my insight. Even the 30 seconds of speaking on the microphone was a great way to challenge myself.  

Each volunteering opportunity provided me ways to improve my skills while also adding valuable experience to my resume. In an interview, the last thing I want to relay is that I’m complacent in my job search. I’ve learned employers want to see effort, and offering help wherever and whenever is a great way to show initiative and strong work ethic.  

Expand your network

As the Museum Operations intern at Minnesota Children's Museum, I was introduced to the nonprofit sector and the wonderful opportunities nonprofits offer. I fell in love with mission-driven work and jumped at every opportunity to help where needed.

My efforts at Minnesota Children’s Museum got me selected to work with the president, Dianne Krizan, on a special project. During our first meeting, Dianne connected me with a colleague—who is a leader in the HR field—for an informational interview. He gave me some valuable insight and even provided me feedback on my resume.

Since completing my internship, I’ve continued to volunteer with Minnesota Children’s Museum to recruit new volunteers and interns, chat weekly with interns on Skype, and create and maintain a LinkedIn group for the Museum interns. It was through an intern Skype chat that I connected with YNPN board member Tom Basquil who led me to fellow board member Virginia Brown and the volunteer opportunity at the EDGE event. 

Without any of these volunteer efforts, I would not have met these helpful people who have connected me to new opportunities, new organizations, and other great people.

Uncover potential opportunities

Recently, I volunteered as a resume reviewer at a resume event hosted by the local chapter of Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). After sending a thank-you email to the event coordinators, I was invited to interview for a recruiter position at a financial firm. On LinkedIn, I shared this direct result of volunteering with my network. After reading my post, a former classmate reached out to let me know her company was hiring. We were able to connect and I will be interviewing with her company this week!

It’s clear my volunteer efforts are making a huge impact on my job search. There are many organizations out there that can help you do the same, including MAVAJobAngelsHands On Twin CitiesWomenOnCall.orgVolunteerMatch and Idealist

I’m feeling good, building skills and overcoming some old fears. My confidence is in check and my job is just around the corner!

How have you used volunteering in your job search? Feel free to share other resources and your own inspiring volunteer stories!  

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