Many women who take a career break to raise their children find that volunteering helps pave a path back to paid employment.
Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of iRelaunch and co-author of Back on the Career Path (often called “the bible of career reentry”), encourages women on career break to actively seek out “strategic volunteering” opportunities — ones in which they can develop skills and build a network of contacts relevant to their career interests.
That’s not to say that helping out in your children’s’ schools and chaperoning field trips are not valuable experiences. (They are precious times not to be missed, if possible.) But, think beyond the classroom to also spend time volunteering at organizations and in capacities that further your professional goals.
Meet Karen—a social worker and single mom, who stopped working for several years to raise her children. As Karen started thinking about returning to the workforce in the same field she left, she began volunteering at a hospice. Within four months, Karen was asked to take on a part-time position to manage the volunteers. Working part-time, she found herself getting up-to-speed to meet the requirements for a full-time social work position and in close contact with social workers who could alert her to job openings at their employers. Helping others while helping herself, now that’s inspiring.
Meet Peggy—she credits her fifteen years of “volunteering for education-related causes and in her children’s school system” for keeping her up-to-date on Excel, Powerpoint and Word Office software skills and helping her secure full-time employment at a community college after she divorced. Peggy offers advice to women looking to re-enter the workforce, “Look to the skills you gained as a volunteer – they certainly helped me feel qualified and ready for a paid position.”
Whether you are looking for ideas for a cause you can get behind or information about specific organizations in your area, check out www.volunteermatch.org. Their motto: “We bring good people and good causes together.” Volunteermatch.org lists opportunities at approximately 110,000 organizations in 35 states, as well as positions that can be completed remotely, addressing diverse causes such as animals, children, community, education, environment, health, mentoring, homeless, women, disaster, and hunger.
In addition to enhancing your hire-ability, volunteering is also a great way to meet and spend time with people who share your values, to strengthen your sense of community, and to give back to society. Volunteering your way back into the workforce – that’s a worthy pursuit!
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