I recently met an up-and-coming blogger, Laura Kumin, author of  http://motherwouldknow.com/ – a blog that answers the cooking questions we might ask our mother if calling her wouldn’t involve an interrogation about our love life. Over a curry lunch we talked about cooking, blogging, and finding our career niche.  Here is a story that Laura wrote about a friend of hers that got a job – yes, a paid job – from volunteering. If you didn’t read my two-part post about the advantages of volunteering, click here: Part 1 and Part 2. Thanks, Laura, for sharing your story.  

I hear lots of talk about how hard it is to find jobs, and maybe even more about people who have lost their jobs through layoff.  But recently, a young friend of mine in his twenties, John, got an exciting new job with benefits and great potential for advancement. It may take ingenuity and persistence to find them, but the happy news reminded me that there are opportunities.  Margaret wrote two posts this month on volunteer work leading to paying jobs. John’s story illustrates how a strategic decision to volunteer can lead to a fulfilling job.

John graduated two years ago from a local university with a degree in the social sciences and an interest in international relations. After college, he could not find a job in those areas.  But with considerable knowledge of computers and technology, he landed a part-time job, without benefits, doing technology-related work for a local school.  After about 18 months on that part-time job with free-lancing on the side to make enough for living expenses, John began networking.

Through a contact, John learned of an international nonprofit that uses technology to provide services in developing countries. He determined that the nonprofit fit in well with his interests and skills, but did not have any open positions and was not likely to have any in the near future.  So he offered to volunteer there several times a week.  John organized his part-time schedule and consulting around the volunteer job (as much as he could) and began working 50-60 hour weeks.  John is a quick study and soon became a valued member of the small operation of which he was a part. Meanwhile, he kept networking within the organization to learn more about how it operates and what other organizations he might apply to now that he had experience with this one.

Six months after he started volunteering, John’s supervisor at the nonprofit – the only full-time employee in that part of the organization – unexpectedly got a new opportunity and gave notice that he would leave.  He encouraged John to apply for his (the supervisor’s) job.  With references from the current jobholder (his supervisor) and several others in the organization with whom he had worked during his volunteering, John put in his application.  After five separate interviews and considerable discussion with various people in the organization who liked his initiative, his work ethic, and the way he had already learned his way around the organization, he landed the job.   John started the job two weeks ago and is working hard – maybe even harder than when he combined part-time, freelance, and volunteer work. But he’s smiling a lot these days and looks forward to going to work.