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There are numerous aspects and methods to managing your volunteer career so it contributes and supports your employment goals.  I will address these through a series of articles covering how YOU can manage your volunteer career effectively. 


Myth-busting the most common volunteer myths 


First, I would like to start with some myth-busting regarding volunteering.  Through my 30-year volunteer career, I have run across these assumptions or myths, in this case when it comes to volunteers and volunteering in general.  


The most common myth (assumption) I have seen, and still see, is that volunteers are not skilled, they are just ?free labor?.  Is this true and how do we reorient this thinking?  First of all, as a volunteer, you should never think of yourself as just a name on a roster.  You will always bring something of value to an organization or a project.  If you feel you are undervalued by an organization, now might be the time to research other places to commit your time.  When looking for places to volunteer, seek out organizations that have an interview and screening process, a defined position description and expectations of their volunteers, and an orientation process.  Look into projects and organizations that have a mission complementary to your personal goals.  Try to avoid organizations that look at unpaid employees as ?just volunteers?.  


Another myth (assumption) I have heard when approaching organizations is that many don?t feel they need volunteers.  This is an opportunity for you to create a niche for yourself to work towards your personal goals.  If you find an organization that fits into your skill set, approach that organization with your resume and offer to fill a need they may have.  Many organizations are working with very slim margins and may welcome the unpaid employee that can help them meet their mission.  This opens the door for future employment.  When they are able to hire paid staff, you will have a proven history and a demonstrated commitment -- valuable assets which could place you at the top of the list of qualified candidates.  


Finally, volunteers believe the myth (assumption) that ANY volunteer experience is valuable on a resume.  In a perfect world, yes, any volunteering should contribute to your employment goals.  But the reality is that walking a neighbor?s dog or contributing food to a community kitchen may not contribute to your goals.  It does support your community and does fall under the banner of being a ?good neighbor?.   Although some volunteering may not directly lead to employment, it can introduce a new volunteer to the rewards of community service or to determine if community service is a good fit.  This type of volunteering also develops the hard to codify intangible skills that create a well-rounded employee.  


The word ?volunteer? may have some assumptions to overcome but the reality is that it is an option for those who are not in a position or location where paid employment is a viable option. 

Use your creativity to find the best fit for yourself in the community service world to further your employment goals.   


?Your greatness is not what you have, it is what you give.?  (author unknown)


By Milinda Rau

Outreach Specialist with Military Spouse Jobs & Spouse Nation