Volunteer experience can help you get a job

In some non-profits (and other companies), unless you have worked there as a volunteer or intern, you aren’t likely to get a full-time, paid position. Even if the organization doesn’t have an official hire from within policy, volunteering might entice the hiring manager to give your resume a second look.

In the February, 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine (page 100), Laura Vanderkam wrote an article, “How volunteering helps you land a job,” which reiterates how important volunteering can be on your resume if used appropriately. Unfortunately, the article isn’t available online.

Vanderkam suggests listing specific skill-building volunteer activities on your resume. Look objectively at what you did. Did you organize a fundraiser? Recruit volunteers? Train them in assisting you with the event? Organize, recruit and train are all keywords that hiring managers like to see on a resume. Be sure to include as much detail as you can such as what the event raised, hoe many volunteers, time, etc. It cannot be said enough having skills and using them are two different things. Hiring managers want to know you can the use skills you highlight and transfer them into a new position.

Don’t discuss your volunteer work in an interview, unless the interviewer bring it up. “The employers who find the service to be relevant will ask you about it,” Vanderkam states in the article. “But some won’t feel that way about any unpaid work. In such cases, it’s best to stay quiet.”

Vanderkam also cautions against listing volunteer activities for polarizing organizations. Yes, you might have organizational, recruiting and event planning experience from staging a protest at a local business, but you might not want to cite that if you are applying to a Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, Vanderkam suggests not listing activities that relate to being a parent, such as the PTA. “Researchers have found that women who cite volunteering related to motherhood on a resume are less likely to be called back for an interviews than those who list a neighborhood group.”

Have you listed volunteer activities on your resume?

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Interview Skills: Not Just for Reporters

Photo from: SEOsk.com
Do you feel like getting your questions answered for a project is like pulling teeth? Do you have to talk to clients every day and feel like you aren’t getting any more information than when you called the last time?

You would probably benefit from learning some basic interviewing skills.

The first and most important preparation tool is to do some research. Know as much as you can about the other person or topic and have that background in front of you. It is amazing what five minutes on Google can tell you. Or just looking over the previous information and writing the questions you still are unsure of the answer to. By doing a few minutes of background research, your subject will know you cared enough to spend the time to get to know them.

Now on to the harder part, the questions. As Ryan Knapp so aptly put it, “asking open-ended questions to help prompt discussion/longer answers.” Which is exactly what you want! A discussion that feels like a conversation and less like a one-sided information session. Good places to start are why and how. Not very many people can answer a why or how question with a yes or a no!

Don’t be afraid of the follow-up question. If you didn’t get the answer the first time, try rephrasing the question and asking it again in another way.

Also, don’t just be thinking about what the next question will be and tune out the answer. The answer may lead to a different follow-up question that you wouldn’t have thought to ask if you had not been listening.

Finally, relax. Unlike journalists, you probably aren’t investigating a story. You’re just trying to get the required information to make your project or business relationship better.