This afternoon I was interviewed by a publication related to volunteer management, on the topic of engaging and overseeing veterans. I hadn’t given this much thought prior to learning of the interview last week but, over the last several days, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. Several things come to mind I’d like to share and get your thoughts on.
First, volunteering offers the possibility of civilian work experience during periods of unemployment. It offers an opportunity to learn and/or use different skills and in a non-military environment. This alone could make the transition from military service to eventual civilian employment smoother.
Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to volunteer as a way to not only “give back” but as a way of exploring my interests and making contacts. I did this during summer breaks from college and, low and behold, it led to a job offer. I was the only Senior I knew who had a job lined up before graduation day. Because so many service members are working their jobs until their last day of active duty, there isn’t much time for career exploration. Instead, it happens in real-time and can result in job-hopping. Why not leverage volunteering as a career development activity in concert with job search activities? They just might dovetail nicely.
Second, volunteering could be a terrific opportunity to get Wounded Warriors engaged in purposeful work while they recover and transition out of the military. There is already research showing the importance of work in the healing process. The opportunity to contribute and put skills to work could be a win-win for individual service members and the organizations for which they volunteer.
If you work in an organization that uses volunteers, consider reaching out to veterans and Wounded Warriors as a rich source of talent. If you are interested in spending some time volunteering while you are in the job search process, ask yourself the following questions: 1) What type of job or organization interests me? 2) What kind of job am I drawn to but unqualified for? 3) What kind of volunteer opportunity could increase my job qualifications? 4) What kind of organization or role could expose me to people I need or want to meet?
In other words, when thinking about volunteering as a bridge to employment or healing, ask not what you can do (because there is a lot you can do, a lot of organizations in need of volunteers), but what volunteering can do for you. A strange twist on a familiar phrase, but one that could increase your marketability and network while making a meaningful contribution.