How to Develop New Skills Through Volunteer Opportunities

AUGUST 19TH, 2019
Whether you’re in the technology field or not, you know how important experience is when it comes to finding a job or advancing your career. But the need for experience can put job seekers in a tough spot. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. How do you fill those knowledge gaps and develop skills in the field without getting full-time employment? Your local nonprofits might hold the answer. Volunteering is a great way to gain new skills and do real-world work. Since many nonprofits operate on razor-thin budgets, they need all sorts of volunteers to complete their mission, including people in the technology field. As a volunteer, you can make a difference by providing your skills to these organizations while also branching out into a new area of interest. Nonprofits are always looking for help, but they can’t always pay to hire talent. Because of their needs, they’ll often be more likely to give you a chance to try something new even if you don’t have a ton of experience in that specific area. But before you start looking for a place to volunteer, you’ll want to think about what you can offer and what you’ll ideally learn as you volunteer.Decide What You Want to Know Are you hoping to work on larger IT networks? Do you want to lead a team on new kinds of projects? Would you like to spend a little less time troubleshooting computers and more time working on a website? Maybe you’re curious about marketing and want to see how nonprofits draw attention to their cause and gather donations. Think about what kinds of opportunities you’d like to have, but remember that these organizations often need help with menial tasks, too. Much of what you’ll be able to do or learn will depend on the type of organization you spend time with and what their greatest needs are.
Find a Good MatchWhatever the goal, there are a few good ways to find opportunities. The right opportunity might not appear immediately, but with patience and effort, you’ll find an organization that has a mission you care about and that will give you opportunity chance to sharpen some skills. Ways to research organizations include:
  • Volunteer Sites – Volunteer Match and gov are designed to connect volunteers with non-profits, charities, and businesses in need.
  • Job Boards – Sites like indeed and Monster list full-time positions, but they often list volunteer opportunities as well, so check to see if there’s anything compelling available in your field.
  • Your Network – Reach out to people you know on social media or in person and let them know what you’re looking for. They might know someone who could use a hand.
  • Local Groups – Dozens of local charities, nonprofits, and other groups could use your help but may not post information about opportunities online. Local libraries, homeless shelters, and animal shelters are just a few places you can contact by phone to see how you can help.
Make It Happen Make a list of interesting opportunities and reach out. Get to know what these organizations do and how they operate. You’ll know you’ve found a good match when you care deeply about the cause. When you find the right match, you won’t feel like you’re only there to gain skills; you’ll know you’re there to make a difference.

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