Whether you’re a new grad or seasoned pro, never underestimate the power of volunteering. When volunteering at a local hospital or for a charitable organization, you can use your existing skills, learn new ones, improve people skills like conflict management and make new contacts.
Professionally, it’s the job-seeker’s multivitamin pill. All that new networking in a volunteer situation can segue into employment if jobs open up. People within the organization get to know you, and your strengths.You could be the perfect candidate right in their midst.
It’s a boost for your resume
Even if a job opportunity doesn’t open up in that volunteer setting, you can add volunteer work to your resume’s list of recent experience, advises nurse consultant Donna Cardillo in her blog.
At the American Red Cross, chief nurse Sharon Stanley says it’s clear nationwide that everyone increasingly depends on the help of others. “Our communities need to pull together during disasters and hard times, and part of that pulling together involves volunteers,” she says.
But volunteering does more that improve a resume, says Stanley, who works with about 20,000 nurse volunteers. It also improves a nurse’s practice.
“When you are stretching yourself, that bodes well for the individual’s practice,” she says. “It’s getting outside that usual comfort zone.” A nurse’s floor, for example, is the usual comfort zone in a hospital; if you need a piece of hospital equipment, you simply fill out a request. But, Stanley says, when you go into a disaster area, you need to “start creatively putting equipment together, and that’s a whole different skill.” Those volunteer activities in emergency situations translate into “crisis communication experience” on your resume.
Combine work and volunteering
In South Texas, nurse practitioner Tami Dittburner combines full-time work and Red Cross volunteering.
“I needed another aspect to my career,” she says. “I tried different organizations throughout my life but I never was able to utilize my skills as a nurse to the capacity I do with this.”
A nurse for 28 years, Dittburner joined the Red Cross a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and other Gulf states. She works every day for the Red Cross by monitoring e-mails and updates for a website that nurses can log into for advice. She also mentors new nurses, who asked her advice during the Texas wildfires.
“One of the surprises for me is the new friendships I’ve made and colleagues I know across the country because of this experience,” she says. “That’s a surprise advantage.” And, she adds, it’s networking.
Besides, volunteering is also just plain darn good for your health. In her blog, Cardillo writes that volunteering gives a sense of purpose and keeps you socially connected. And that boosts physical and mental health. Which makes job-hunting easier, right?
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