Best-selling author Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s Connection Director, has a great tip on how to land your next job. Call it “strategic volunteering.”
We talked to Williams, who has penned three popular career advice books, about how to volunteer your way into a new gig.
Here’s how you do it:
Interview the organizations you would volunteer for. If you were to volunteer for a company’s pet social project, would it give the experience you want? Would you meet many employees at the company? Executives?
Consider volunteering directly for the company’s foundation or nonprofit arm. That’s a pretty far-out idea, as most companies staff their foundations with their own employees. But if you approach it as you would a paid job, with an offer to do a specific task, you’d be surprised.
“The majority of people don’t do that,” Williams says. “They presume you would never make that kind of call. But people are so pleased to hear from volunteers. You’re not asking for a paycheck.”
Try to get an introduction before pitching your idea of volunteering, Williams recommends.
Focus on what you need to learn, not just what you already do well. If you are a tech genius and want to get into sales, fixing PCs or running the nonprofit’s website could be the wrong choice. Instead, maybe offer to help with fundraising or event planning.
“There should be a payoff,” says Williams. “What are you getting out of it? And you can’t leave that up to volunteer organization to define for you.”
Think about your resume. If you love animals and want to be a dog walker at the local animal shelter, that’s great. Can you turn that work into a management job? Maybe you can manage the master dog-walker schedule and train others to do the job. On your resume, you can now say that you managed a group.
Pick something you really care about. The idea is to marry something you love with your career goals. You are volunteering. You should enjoy it. At the same time, a lot of people think that “volunteering is meant to be altruistic and you not expecting a return,” but just because you aren’t getting paid, doesn’t mean that it should be good for you, and your career, Williams insists.
Advertise your accomplishments. None of this does any good unless it helps hiring managers find you. About a year ago, LinkedIn added a new optional field to its profile called Volunteer Experience & Causes.
Here’s the secret. You can fill out your LinkedIn “skills” list with your volunteer work. When a recruiter searches for people with certain skills, your profile will land in the pile.
“Unlike a resume where you want to be as targeted as possible, with LinkedIn, it’s the reverse—be as broad as possible,” Williams recommends. “The more info you have in your profile, more likely you are to be found.”
When recruiters see your profile, they will know these skills are attached to volunteer work. That can work in your favor, showing you as a well-rounded, charitably minded type.