The Long and Winding Road from Volunteer to Employee
Giving your time for a cause has its many altruistic perks. From getting to meet new people to helping the less fortunate in your community, unpaid work does wonders for your sense of worth and belonging in society. Nevertheless, the responsibilities of our society beckon, and the necessity of employment can often mean less fulfilling opportunities. But you can have both. You can do community-enriching work and get paid for it. In the modern age of nearly infinite possibilities, volunteering and internships can be stepping stones to fantastic paying jobs. The key is knowing how to traverse that path.
Do not overemphasize the importance of an immediate paycheck. The skills you acquire now can be much more lucrative than making a few quick dollars in the present. Devoting some of your time to volunteer opportunities will reward you with new skills. In the film and television industry, a world I have traversed as a scriptwriter, internships allow people to learn about production and editing by actually doing these activities instead of sitting in a classroom. This hands-on approach is far more educational than simply reading about these tasks. Think of these skills as an investment. What you learn can translate into a better career, and hence greater pay, further down the road.
Beyond skills, volunteering gives you experience that is quite impactful on a resume. It demonstrates your commitment to certain fields and hardworking nature to employers, and can help fill in questionable gaps of periods of unemployment that are frowned upon. Use this time to not only learn, but to build relationships and make contacts. Put your passion on full display. By going above and beyond what has been asked of you, others will be more likely to remember you. These people can become very valuable references, and may even offer you employment based on what they have seen. Internships are often pathways to employment in film and television, as well as many other industries.
The final days of your volunteering position are critical. Strive to stay connected to the people you have met during your time there. This may not be immediately rewarding. Yet weeks, months, or even years from now, their recommendation or need for an employee could be exactly what you need. Perhaps most importantly, reflect on the skills and confidence you have gained from your experience. You are now a better prospect for employers and have made progress towards your dream career. This may not come to fruition immediately, but the foundation has been laid. Utilize your newfound confidence to contact companies you may not have reached out to before. Attend networking events. Stay in touch with existing contacts. All it takes is one opportunity and one “yes” to make that dream career a reality.
Volunteering is far from ideal in certain ways – beyond the obvious lack of pay, it can feel like a frustrating speed bump on the path you are determined to take. Focus instead on the positives. Accept that volunteer work and internships are necessary building blocks. Gain skills, make contacts, and overcome insecurities that stifle confidence. The path to the career you want will be winding, but opportunities exist as long as you persist.
Doyle, Alison. “How to Turn a Volunteer Position into a Job.” The Balance. https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-turn-a-volunteer-position-into-a-job-2062644
Shifman, Julie. “7 Reasons Volunteering Can Lead to a Job.” Next Avenue. http://www.nextavenue.org/7-reasons-volunteering-can-lead-job/
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