Volunteer to keep your corporate skills sharp

Since I was laid off, I have talked to a lot of job hunters who share my dilemma: how do we keep our skills sharp when we’re not working 40 – 50 hours a week?  I believe the answer lies in assisting non-profit organizations.

Do you picture volunteerism as painting a house for an elderly homeowner or cheering at a Special Olympics event?  Now think ‘behind the scenes.’  Non-profit organizations are discovering the benefits of the corporate skill set many volunteers possess.

If you’re a job hunter interested in offering pro bono support, keep these points in mind:

  • Service is a plus on resumes. Being out of work for a long time no longer raises red flags. However, recruiters ask what you did in that time.  They like to hear that that you pursued professional development and training, worked freelance, or provided your services to charities.  They don’t care that you attended your daughter’s soccer games or refinished the living room floor.
  • Resources can be limited. You might have come from a business sector that provided a generous budget. Non-profits rarely have that edge, so don’t assume anything. Just ask what they can and can’t provide.
  • Avoid long-term projects unless you are confident you will have the time after you land a job. If you’re not sure, then think short-term.
  • Non-profits need more than muscle. Apply your brains and experience to assist with inventory control, purchasing negotiations, process management, record-keeping and auditing, project management, human resources, information management… the list goes on and on.
  • Pick up some new skills. Shy about social networking? Have someone show you the ropes. Rusty in event planning?  Ask for an opportunity to polish those abilities.

Volunteering IS its own reward. However, you never know when the folks you help could be the contacts you need for a job. Either way, everyone wins.

If you’re interested in working as a skilled volunteer in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, check out the skilled volunteer program described on The Volunteer Center web site


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