Take the time to research and choose the right volunteer organization.
Because it's the right thing to do, because it will make you a better person.
But there are other reasons too, if you choose wisely.
I started volunteering at my local synagogue at a very young age when I could not have cared less about job search.
ALL donated, volunteering time is never a waste. Being active as a volunteer is a great way to meet people and discover things about yourself that can then lead to new career directions and job leads.
However, only if you have specific goals in mind, can you then get the maximum benefit.
1) Aim for the right organization
Volunteer at the place that will most help your personal brand and job search goals.
If your goal is to be recognized as an expert, share your expertise at a local chapter of an industry association, chamber of commerce, or writing op-eds or blog posts for that association.
If your goal is to be recognized for a specific job, offer your services in that role for a large charity that highlights its volunteers on its website, for example.
2) Aim for the right role
A volunteering position should appear on your resume just like any other position, and not all roles are equal with regards to your brand.
Which role will enable you to make best use of your skills AND provide great benefits to the organization? That combination is key to being a successful volunteer and getting recognition for it.
3) Aim for the right supervisor & colleagues
This is a tough one, I admit it. Just like when you get hired for a job, you'll rarely be offered a choice of who your boss would be.
Rather, just like when you job search, before joining an organization, spend some time learning about the people whom you would likely work with and understand how they could help you in the future. An (older?) well-connected supervisor would be preferable to someone who's also just getting started in the organization.
4) Aim for the right recipients
As part of the organization, who are the people or other organizations that you will spend your volunteer time helping?
Look for a role where you will get to interact with recipients directly so that people can learn about you & your work both inside AND outside the organization.
5) Aim for the right time to join
This is more relevant in some cases than others. The idea is that some organizations have busier times of year than others, are only active seasonally, etc.
Another angle is to consider- can a volunteer organization enable you to get into an otherwise inaccessible event?
Do what it takes to be in the right place at the right time.
I originally published a version of this article on the terrific Personal Branding Blog.
Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.