Volunteer Work For The Ambitious Job Seeker – Part One discussed the benefits of volunteering while you’re looking for a job. Today’s post discusses how to make the most of your volunteer experience.

Working, even in jobs we don’t like, provides us with structure. We know where we’re supposed to be and the obligations that must be fulfilled when we get there. Working also provides us with a social outlet. When we’re unemployed our world can shrink to the family and friends we see on a routine basis. We can become settled, and as much as we want a job and know we have to find one, the reality of a working life fades. Volunteering can provide us with the structure we’ve been missing and keep us in the habit of actively managing work relationships.

Approach volunteering as you would a new job – get a feel for the day-to-day operations, the politics and personalities. While agreeably executing whatever responsibilities you’ve been given, make a point to get to know your colleagues – peers and managers. Invite people for lunch or a quick coffee, and make a point to get to know decision makers. Almost every non-profit is short on resources. Start thinking about a way you could contribute beyond the routine volunteer activities. After you have figured out who would be the most appropriate – and likely most receptive – decision maker, lay out your case, making sure to couch any negative with a positive. You’re there to help, not critique. With a good explanation and good timing you will have created a resume builder, improved your volunteer organization’s outcomes, and reduced the likelihood of detaching yourself from the routines of work.