Open Thread | Have You Ever Had Volunteer Work that Led to a Paid Job?

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Here at Idealist, we’re big proponents of getting as much as possible out of a volunteer assignment.

There are plenty of ways volunteering can be a two-way street and we encourage our community of social-impact professionals to not only contribute their time, passion, and skills to causes that resonate, but to look for ways that the experience can benefit them, too!

Here are just a few of the ways that you may benefit from volunteer work:

Expand your network by connecting with new people

Direct service volunteerism can be, in some regards, the great equalizer. You never know who you’ll find beside you when you’re guiding a group of eager seniors in a craft project or monitoring the silent auction tables at a big event. It could be your future employee, colleague, or boss, so don’t miss the opportunity to be friendly and professional.

Fill gaps on your resume

Whether you’re missing specific experience, or you’re currently unemployed, volunteering can fill some critical gaps on your resume. Need a few more successes on your resume before you talk to your boss about that promotion? Look for an organization that needs help in your area of expertise, or apply to be a pro-bono professional with an organization like Taproot or Catchafire.

Discover a new talent

If you’re willing to choose a wild card rather than volunteer for a cause with which you’re already familiar, you may just uncover an interest that you never knew you had. And, who knows where it could lead.

Question of the week: Have you ever had a volunteer assignment that turned into a paid job?

Of course, there are tons of ways to find value as well as personal and professional fulfillment in volunteer work, but this week, we have one question for you: Have you ever had a volunteer assignment that lead to paid work?

What was the trajectory of the relationship or assignment that led to the paid work?

Share your story and let us know:

  • What was the trajectory of the relationship or assignment that led to the paid work?
  • How did you discover the volunteer opportunity in the first place?
  • Was the paid job with that same organization that you were volunteering with, or was some
    other connection made?

Never been there but trying to figure out how? Share your questions on maximizing the benefits and impacts of your volunteer work, here.

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About Author

As a seasoned communications professional with 13+ years of nonprofit experience and 5+ years of experience creating engaging content and copy, I love the idea that a thoughtfully crafted piece of content can spark social change. Here at Idealist Careers, I'm eager to offer job seekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.

6 Comments

  1. I’ve volunteered for 2 years but not been hired. I wrote material for the website. I’ve kept hinting and sometimes asking about jobs. I also asked for letter of recommendation and that much I did get. Many volunteer jobs I’ve held didn’t give me enough work.

    • Alexis Perrotta on

      Hi Bill. Thanks for sharing your story! Would love to hear more about what type of volunteer work you’ve been doing (as well as what kind of a job you were hoping it would lead to). Does the org. know that you’re interested in paid work? How are you listing your volunteer experience on your resume? Hoping we can offer you some useful advice!

  2. I have received a paid part-time temporary position with a national LGBTQ rights organization. Through my extensive volunteer work as a Trans advocate, which has included dozens of workshops and training seminars, the organization was well of me and the work I had done over the course of several years. Having been in the media quite a bit helped, as well.

    At one point, however, I had to make it clear to a number of organizations that I simply did not have the resources to continue to pay my way through all of the volunteer work I was doing. I had met with members of the U.S. Congress, the Obama Administration, and numerous state and local entities as part of my volunteer work. While I am glad I did all of that, I became exhausted and felt used up by the organizations I was representing as a volunteer.

    You see, as a Trans woman, I have been let go from public school and university teaching positions. Fortunately, I am teaching part time now at a university, but it is not enough pay to allow me to travel like I was. This new position with an LGBTQ rights organization will help tremendously, but I don’t see anything full-time coming from it.

    • Alexis Perrotta on

      Thanks for sharing your story, Charin! You raise an important point: No matter how passionate you may be about a particular issue and no matter how dedicated you are to turning your volunteer time into a paying gig, it’s important to be honest with yourself when it comes to determining how much of your own funds you want to commit to covering your volunteer expenses. Do you have any tips or advice for our readers on how you broached the subject with those particular orgs that you mentioned in your comment?

  3. I have done this very deliberately throughout my worklife, and have gotten interesting jobs as a result of describing in my resume jobs I’ve done for free and jobs I’ve done for pay without discriminating between them. My feeling is that If the job is important enough to make it onto my resume (and not all of them do; I have done a lot, and freelanced for many years for many different clients), it’s not relevant to a resume reader whether I was paid for it or not; instead, I make plain which were paid and which were volunteer once I reach the point of an interview. I think of this as bootstrapping into a new career and recommend it highly to anyone who will listen. I’ve done something similar on a paid job: taken on extra responsibilities that were more interesting than what I was paid for, to bootstrap myself into that more interesting work. (I did this when I legitimately had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. It can be risky to admit this to an employer, but I’ve had it work beautifully, surely because they were getting tremendous value from my doing so.)

  4. Pingback: Ask Victoria: Transition from Teaching - Idealist Careers

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