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No one looking for a job wants to hear, “we only hire from our pool of volunteers.” Yet many non-profits will tell that to applicants inquiring about open positions.

This isn’t necessarily bad. First, by volunteering with the organization you have an opportunity to make sure it really is a good fit. Second, it will give you better insight into what exactly is involved in each job or department. Third, it’s a chance to show you care about and value the organization.

Some non-profits have the equivalent of an apprentice program. A volunteer gets to work in the various departments over a specific period of time and then has the option to apply for positions.

So, what’s a poor job seeker to do? Find a way to volunteer! If you’re unemployed, volunteering can be a great way to spend your time and network. If you’re employed but considering a career change, find a way to volunteer after hours or on the weekend.

Volunteering for an organization does not have to mean you aren’t doing paid work elsewhere. It just can be a good foot in the door and give you insight into the organization.

Were you hired from a volunteer position? How did you do it?

Jump the hoops

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Most of us are taught by our parents and teachers to think for ourselves. Many of us are taught to question when requests are illegal, impractical or illogical. No one explains that when you enter the work force, you ought to throw most of that advice out the window. You need to show you can follow directions and that you meet minimum qualifications.

During the application process, you will likely jump through more hoops than you ever could have imagined. Yes, you do have to fill out the same piece of information three times, in three different places. Yes, you do have to include your high school education information even if you graduated 20 years ago if the form requires it. It’s frustrating, but if you want the job necessary. Getting angry over the hurdles or defiant about the process reflects poorly on the applicant.

I’d like to think that all these hoops are to make sure you can follow directions. That you’re a good candidate who won’t question the status quo. That you aren’t lying. But the reality is an application, interview and subsequent tests are the only ways employers have to gauge whether or not you would be a good fit or would steal all the office equipment. They are trying to look out for the company.

Just grin and bear it. Hopefully, you’ll land an interview and can show the company you have the skills they require, are friendly and truly want to work for them. Good luck!