Volunteering Is the New Network
Brian Wilson is a Mission Continues Fellowship Alumnus and a veteran of the US Army. He is currently the Creative Technology Manager at Combined Arms in Houston, Texas.
I have volunteered since I was 12. My dad talked to a person at the Parks and Recreation department in our small town and for six hours a week I pulled weeds at parks and picked up trash. I was paid in free soda, which was priceless to a 12-year-old.
Since then, I have volunteered at a variety of different places. From being a volunteer firefighter to cleaning up an inner-city school. Each time I volunteered, I came in contact with a new person or group of people that I never would have met through my normal channels. I would be landscaping next to a CEO of a major company, putting together hygiene kits for disaster relief while chatting with an IT manager, or proofreading a resume with a fellow military veteran.
After spending six years in the military, I entered college and once again found myself volunteering. It seemed like a natural place to go meet people. Do some good for others, do some good for yourself. My volunteer work landed me my first corporate job in human resources at a medical school. They found me at one of my volunteer projects, setting up networking events for military veterans. From there, I moved on to working at a non-profit, where I now recruit more volunteers.
Each volunteer opportunity that I had, I learned more about aspects of business and program management that are usually reserved for employees. One of the main complaints I hear when people are job hunting is that they are turned down for not having enough experience. Their first response is, “How am I supposed to get the experience if I can’t get the job?” And the best answer is to volunteer to get the experience.
A lot of people of people mistake volunteering with physical labor, such as building homes or cleaning up parks. The truth is that most non-profits work in the social services sector, providing after-school programs, career counseling, refugee services, crisis centers, and many, many more. Volunteers at these organizations have an opportunity to work in a variety of programs and operations management, administration, finance and grant writing, social services, and career services.
Do you have a goal to work at a law firm? Go volunteer at a legal clinic and you could meet your future employers. Not sure if you should be a social worker? Volunteer at a community center and see if you find that spark. There are hundreds of opportunities for you to jump-start your career, build your resume, and grow your network.
Check out The Mission Continues, especially if you are a veteran or otherwise military-connected. There are also plenty of other opportunities. Vist the local United Way in your town, VolunteerMatch, or head over to the new LinkedIn volunteer opportunity site. There are some full-time volunteer opportunities that pay a living stipend as part of the program, such as AmeriCorps VISTA. Each of these programs can help you access the perfect volunteer position that meets your skills and your goals.
Now, go forth and do great work.
The Mission Continues is proud to connect veteran leaders to community service through our programs, but we need your support to continue the work our volunteers do in communities–please donate in honor of National Volunteer Week!
Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.