One of the great things about social media is you have the opportunity to really find out about people and what they not only do for a living but what they do for hobbies and if they volunteer. A lot of this information is found on a LinkedIn profile, a Google+ account, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.
If you talk to any reputable career coach, most will tell you that you have to “network” to make connections to find the job you really want. I don’t disagree with that notion, I just understand for most people it is not natural to walk into a room and start talking to people.
If you are in a job search and have some time to volunteer, I think you will be surprised how many significant people you will meet from companies that you never heard of by just working side-by-side with them at some volunteer event.
You can even take this idea further and look up all of the companies you want to work for and search their website to see what type of local volunteerism they do. It is a great place to start and if you like the group they are working with (United Way, Ronald McDonald House, Coalition for the Homeless, etc.), connect with that organization and find out how to get involved.
Another way to volunteer is to use your LinkedIn and other accounts to find out what boards people sit on in their community. Many of these boards (hospitals, foundations, etc.) may have board or committee positions open for things they do in the community. Boards usually have a high number of significant influencers on them that work at many types of companies. In many cases, they can get you the inside track to any jobs open at their companies as long as you have the qualifications.
Working side-by-side with people you just meet gives you the opportunity to network while doing something pretty cool for your community.
Here are some tips for volunteering yourself into your next job.
1. Google volunteer opportunities in your city. You will get a list of people looking for volunteers in all types of situations.
2. Go directly to any company’s website that you have an interest in working for and look to see if they have a community section. They will usually post their upcoming community projects and you may be able to coordinate being a volunteer at the same project. Yes, it takes some work but it is worth it if you can work side-by-side your potential future employer.
3. Use the opportunity for job research. Once you are volunteering, make sure you ask simple questions like, “What do you do for ABC Company?” and “How did you get that job?” In these situations, people will talk with you very openly. Your goal is to get information from them but not to look like a desperate job seeker.
4. Work hard during the project. Show your work ethic. As you get to meet people throughout the day, they will remember you for the way you work.
5. Treat this as a networking event. If you are looking for a claims job and volunteer alongside State Farm Insurance employees, you may not meet the claims manager. However, most of the people you will meet and become friends with will gladly steer you in the right direction (and put in the good word for you!).
6. Make sure you get everyone’s business card at the end of the project. Once back at home, connect with them through LinkedIn and send them a note in the mail or an email letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them.
Volunteering is a GREAT way to network and meet really significant people that will be more than happy to help you with your career.