Volunteering your way through a career change

In my years working in career services at Arizona State University, I have met many students who have chosen to go back to school in order to make a career transition. While earning a formal degree in your desired field is sometimes a necessity, most of the time, you can build the skills you need to make a transition without quitting your day job. If you are entertaining the idea of a career change, here is why volunteering should be an important part of your strategy.coffee-apple-iphone-laptop

Volunteering is a safe place to develop and practice new skills: No one expects for your work to be perfect and your paycheck isn’t dependent upon how well you preform. Everyone knows you are a volunteer and while you should always follow through with your commitments and put forth your best work, you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Instead, focus your energy on researching your dream job description, figure out what skills you need to develop to get that job, then find a volunteer opportunity that allows you to put those skills into practice!

This is your chance to learn from experts: Many people in the Junior League choose to volunteer in areas that are reflective of their experiences. For example, those with financial backgrounds might chose to volunteer for the finance team. Volunteering is the perfect way for you to work side-by-side with seasoned professionals, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and let them know that you are interested in learning more about what they do!

Networking: If there is one thing that Junior Leaguers know, it is this… It’s all about WHO YOU KNOW (and boy, our members sure are well-connected)! Building relationships with people in your desired industry is the key to helping you land your dream job. In fact, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70% of all jobs are found through networking. You will find that taking the time to meet, build and maintain relationships with fellow leaguers will continue to serve you well throughout your life.people-woman-coffee-meeting-large

Test the waters: Volunteering is the perfect opportunity to test out whether or not you would truly enjoy a particular career. I often tell students that this is what internships are for and often times they come back from their internship deciding that a particular field is not for them. For those of us who can’t afford to quit our full-time jobs for an internship, this is where volunteering comes into play. It is human nature get caught up in the excitement of a new field and sometimes we can romanticize what a particular job would be like. So do your research and spend some time testing a career out before you jump in headfirst.

By Michelle Stelter