Turning Volunteer Work Into Your Career
21 November 2011 at 10:04 am
More than 5 million Australians volunteer but does it provide a pathway to paid employment? Follow our tips on converting your passion into a career.
Put it on your resume
Despite hiring managers saying they value volunteer work equally with paid work when evaluating a candidate, less than 50 percent of Australians include volunteer work on their resumes, according to new research.
According to research by online professional network LinkedIn, one out of every five hiring managers in Australia have hired a candidate because of their volunteer work experience.
LinkedIn – world’s largest professional network with more than 120 million members worldwide and over 2 million in Australia – surveyed over one thousand professionals in Australia.
The survey found that 77 percent of respondents have personally had experience volunteering, but only 46 percent of professionals include their volunteer experience on their resume.
Assess what skills you think are transferable
LinkedIn says the survey reinforces volunteer work as a key piece of a person’s professional identity.
Cliff Rosenberg, Managing Director, LinkedIn Australia and New Zealand, said someone may be a sales person by trade, but if they organised a fundraising event, they can add skills, like event planning or event marketing, to their profile. Having those additional skills can set a person apart and potentially make them a more attractive employee and business partner.
Learn new skills and expand your career
You may work in hospitality but teach English as a second language to refugees. If you find you are good at it, and enjoy it – volunteering can provide a pathway to a new career. It can give allow you to test out new skills, flex different work muscles and if you find those muscles work – you are well on the way to a career change.
Some universities are recognising that volunteer work can be professionalised by providing degrees tailored especially for those in the Not for Profit sector
Swinburne University of Technology and Eastern Volunteers signed a collaborative agreement last month to create educational pathways for more than 1500 volunteers.
According to Swinburne, the agreement allows both volunteers and those working in Not for Profit organisations to have their experience recognised, develop new skills and gain access to further education.
"Many volunteers come to us to gain practical work experience," said Eastern Volunteers Marketing Services Manager Alex Makin.
"This new agreement means volunteers can combine unpaid work experience with the possibility of gaining formal qualifications through Swinburne."
"The ability to gain a formal qualification whilst volunteering could ultimately lead to paid employment or facilitate career change."
The new scheme allows volunteers to undertake studies towards certificate, diploma and advanced diploma qualifications at Swinburne, with the opportunity to continue on to a bachelor degree through Swinburne's guaranteed entry scheme.
See if you can convert volunteering to full time work within the sector
If you have a good track record with your organisation, let your manager know that you are looking for a full-time job within the organisation.
Marcus Godinho is CEO of Fare Share a Not for Profit that rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and uses it to feed the hungry.
He started at Fareshare as a volunteer in the kitchen and was then asked be on the board.
As the then CEO of Environment Victoria he was well versed in how to run an organisation but he said it was his work in the kitchen and his commitment to the organisation which really prepared him to take on the role of CEO when it was advertised.
Godinho advises that if you want to make the transition from volunteer to fulltime worker you need to let the organisation know you are interested in working for them, but also let them know what you can do for them, “for example identifying funding sources for different projects.”
“If you’ve got initiative, creativity and vision then there’s real scope for you to be develop a career within an organisation,” he told Pro Bono Australia.