Service Learning

Service Learning: It’s volunteering with a goal in mind. And it’s a great tool to help you achieve your professional goals. Make professional contacts, boost your self-esteem, develop skills, and gain experience when between jobs. Or use service learning to make a career transition into a new field. And it’s one of the best strategies for re-entering the workforce after a career break.

Start by identifying what you want to learn, and be clear with the organization what kind of commitment you can make.

“There are volunteer opportunities that cover the spectrum of experience and skills,” says Jason Willet, spokesperson for VolunteerMatch.org, an online service that matches volunteers with volunteer opportunities. “Some organizations look for people with legal experience. A number of organizations need help in marketing or creating newsletters. If you’re an aspiring Web designer, there are a number of non-profits that need help designing and maintaining their sites. Whatever you’re looking to do, there’s a non-profit that has a need. Even if those skills aren’t completely developed, they’ll be flexible, giving you the option to learn on the job.”

And if you’re not currently employed, include your current volunteer work on your resume and LinkedIn profile, which looks better than unexplained gaps between jobs.

“The definition of work is you have certain responsibilities, you’re accountable to be there on time and you have someone else observing what you’re doing – that’s what most volunteer work is,” says Marky Stein, a career coach based in San Jose, California. “You should feel free to place it on your resume alongside your work experiences.”

When I applied for my current position at La Salle University, I included two volunteer positions on my resume that involved recruiting and developing volunteers, since I knew that was a part of the role. The skills I used, and what I learned in those volunteer positions, were directly relevant to the position.

How about you? Are you currently doing volunteer work? What skills are you developing? What are you learning? How can you give of your time and talent in a way that benefits others and contributes to your professional goals?

Here are some resources for identifying volunteer opportunities:

  • Volunteer Match makes it easy for good people and good causes to connect. Volunteer Match has connected millions of people with a great place to volunteer and helped tens of thousands of organizations better leverage volunteers to create real impact.
  • LinkedIn allows you to search for volunteer opportunities by keyword, organization, location and other criteria.
  • Catchafire drives positive world change through the giving of time and talent, for the benefit of the nonprofit community. Catchafire does this by facilitating connections between professionals who want to donate their time and talent through virtual volunteering with nonprofits who need their skills.
  • Interested in a short or long-term international conservation or humanitarian volunteer project? Check out the resources and search for projects at Working Abroad.
  • Idealist allows you to search volunteer opportunities by keyword, location, and other criteria.
  • AmeriCorps is a federal agency that brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges through national service and volunteering. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve with organizations dedicated to the improvement of communities.
  • Contact your local United Way and ask how to learn about volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • The Volunteer Guide for Healthcare Students has ideas and resources useful to anyone in, or wanting to enter, the healthcare field.
  • Check with your local faith organization for local, national and international opportunities.
  • Find your town at AmericanTowns.com, then under “Community Life” click “Volunteer Organizations”.
  • Read the local newspaper for information on local organizations and events.
  • Volunteer at your employer.

Want to discuss how volunteering can be part of your professional development? Contact Debra Franke, Associate Director of Alumni Career Programs at 215-991-3582 or franke@lasalle.edu.