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Benefits of Volunteering for Job Seekers

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Tue Jan 29 2013

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(From The Undercover Recruiter) — I recently had a childhood friend make a career change in her late thirties: Whe went back to school full-time, investing significant time, effort and money to turn her nursing dream into reality. She recently graduated and was so very proud to have those two new initials after her name: R.N.

Everyone was so happy for her, congratulating her on her achievement. Her Facebook page was blowing up with a flurry of happy activity and optimism for her future.

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Then reality set in.

While nurses are in great shortage everywhere, it seems the industry is only really interested in experienced

RNs and new grads need not apply. Ouch! The job search has been pretty brutal and she’s not alone - 43% of newly licensed RNs still do not have jobs within 18 months after graduation.  It’s the old cliché: You must have experience to get the job yet you must have a job to get experience. What a vicious cycle!  (And it certainly isn’t just limited to the nursing industry).

**How can you break it?

**

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My advice to my friend? Find the very best hospital you can and volunteer your way to your next position. (This advice also applies to any other new grad, career changer, pink slip recipient or jobseeker out there who needs to bridge a gap in employment).

Why volunteer?

1. It puts work experience on your resume. Duh! This is obviously the most important strategy in your job search right now, especially if it’s the only thing keeping you from landing that dream job. Even if it’s just a few hours a week, your resume will now say “XYZ Company (or XYZ Hospital), January 2013 – present” instead of having a big gap. Way, way, way better than having no current employer on your resume, which is an automatic deal-breaker for many recruiters. (Hey, I’m just the messenger here!)  Added bonus? You will probably learn a thing or two (or twenty!), which builds your resume and makes you that much more marketable to employers.

2. It enables you to line up solid references in your field of choice. If/when you need someone to vouch for your skills in this new industry, volunteering will provide you with experienced people who have seen you in action and can recommend you for that job. Think about it… most new grads look exactly alike on paper. Your recommendations and references could be just the thing that separates you from the rest (side note: make sure to add these recommendations to your LinkedIn profile while you’re at it).

3. It allows you to build your network. We’ve all heard it before: it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know. In a bad economy / job market, those words were never more true. People are hiring employee referrals because these referrals are a known quantity and there’s much less risk. If you don’t know many people in your field, then you are at a distinct disadvantage. Volunteering allows you to grow your network (in real life AND on LinkedIn) and you can now leverage those connections to network, find out about new positions and be at the forefront of people’s minds if/when they learn of a new opening. Don’t be afraid to get the word out that you’re actively looking for that foot-in-the-door position.

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