Volunteer Your Way to an Internship or First Job

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Do you love to volunteer? This is a great way to build your career credentials and network! You will be able to find meaningful work experience and valuable connections at many nonprofit organizations.

Volunteer As a Path to Internship or Employment

My nephew Daniel was able to parlay a love of film during college into a wonderful career in video production. He accomplished this after several volunteer positions and internships at non-profits.  He worked at a local film festival and learned all aspects of the business: merchandising, membership, volunteer management, film production and corporate sponsorships.  At another nonprofit, Daniel learned public relations, community relations, and fundraising. He wrote website updates, press releases and other key communications. Great things for any business leader to learn.

Daniel is now in a dream career at a top video gaming company in California. He manages a production team that is responsible for content processing and ingestion of movies and TV episodes into the video game platform. Daniel is the first one to say that his volunteer internships at non-profits were a key factor to his success.

Find an organization where you can really make a difference.  Find a place that you can learn, grow and take on real responsibility. Many non-profits are establishing internship programs to find the best and brightest students.  These organizations are creating talent pipelines, just like Fortune 500 companies do.

Here are some typical benefits of volunteering or interning at a nonprofit:

  • Responsibility: Many students discover that they are able to assume a great deal more responsibility, particularly at smaller non-profits. Look forward to acquiring new skills in the process.
  • Structured learning opportunities: Many non-profits provide formal training and learning opportunities or classes. Look for programs that rotate department leaders or experts from HR, IT or marketing as trainers or speakers.
  • Team projects: Some nonprofit organizations will ask interns to participate in group projects. Many of these are very creative projects with high impact. This is also a great chance to get to know the other interns.
  • Mentoring: Expect to meet and interact with senior leaders at many nonprofit organizations. Along with training, many non-profits will create mentoring type of opportunities such as one-on-ones or coffee Q & A with a CEO or executive staff members.
  • Networking: Your networking opportunities are not limited to the staff at a nonprofit. Many times interns will interact with volunteers from local companies or board members. You may even have the opportunity to meet local business leaders at a benefit or event for your nonprofit organization.
  • Confidence and Resume: Your great work at a nonprofit will definitely build your confidence. Be sure to add your new skills and projects to your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Find the right nonprofit that has a mission to match your passion. Daniel did just that and worked his way into a dream career.  There are many organizations that support a variety of causes, so pick what’s best for you. You can also consider working part time at a nonprofit along with the other work, internships or clubs that you are involved with. You might decide to start your career at a nonprofit after college. At the very least, you can learn and network while you have a chance to make a real difference!

Have you thought of volunteering your way to success?

Sandra Long

Sandra Long

Sandra Long is the author of the bestselling book LinkedIn For Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide. She is also the managing partner of Post Road Consulting LLC. Sandra and her team work with corporations, universities, and individuals to drive successful sales, career, and talent acquisition results.

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