We used volunteer work to get our jobs
Casey Eisenreich, Sean Werkheiser and Daniel C. White used skills gained through volunteering to kick-start their careers—and so can you.
When you’re applying to jobs, you might not think to add volunteer work to your resume. If it wasn’t paid, it’s not work experience, right? Wrong. Don’t underestimate the value of volunteering.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal service agency, surveyed its AmeriCorps alumni and found that 80% of respondents said their volunteer experience was worthwhile in furthering their careers. A majority of alumni found their service either aligned with their current career path or led to opportunities in other service-related fields.
Take it from three post-graduates who successfully translated their skills gained through volunteer work into paid opportunities.
She built a career in construction
Casey Eisenreich, 25, always loved being outdoors, so volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that helps build, renovate and repair affordable housing, in Oklahoma City, was a perfect fit.
From there, Eisenreich honed her leadership skills while working as a team leader at AmeriCorps, a federal community service program. Today, she's a site coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, leading and organizing volunteers, in addition to working on-site and assisting with construction.
“I'd definitely say my experiences volunteering at Habitat and in AmeriCorps helped me learn the skills I have now,” says Eisenreich. “And if it weren’t for previously volunteering with Habitat, I’m not sure I’d have the position I have with them today.”
He went from tutor to teacher
In college, Sean Werkheiser, 26, volunteered as a tutor at a middle school in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, where he worked with young people and made lesson plans. Little did he know this volunteer experience would give him the background he would need to get accepted to City Year, an education-focused organization, where he tutored a bilingual class at a middle school in the Bronx borough of New York.
All of his service work created a domino effect, and after a year, Werkheiser applied to the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF). He got in.
“I would not have been fluent enough in Spanish to get accepted to NYCTF if I hadn't [volunteered at] City Year,” says Werkheiser. “And I wouldn't have gotten into City Year if I hadn’t volunteered as a tutor during college.”
Werkheiser is currently a third-grade teacher at a dual-language school in Brooklyn, New York, and he’s studying for his master's degree in bilingual childhood education.
“Working with City Year confirmed for me that I wanted to be a teacher,” he says. “And now, here I am.”
He turned pro-bono work into a profitable business
Daniel C. White originally had a career in the music industry, where he worked in artist relations in Nashville. While attending a volunteer trip with a musician he represented, White noticed a few photographers documenting service work for Food for the Hungry, a Christian organization that combats world hunger. White owned a camera, so he figured he’d offer to volunteer as a photographer when needed. Soon enough, it turned into a regular gig.
“I was volunteering for Food for the Hungry as a photographer on international trips,” says White. “I certainly had no intention of it turning it into a business, but once I started doing it, it opened the doors to many other opportunities.”
White was familiar with photo-editing software, but it wasn’t until he started shooting in the field that he really learned his way around a camera.
His volunteer work for Food for the Hungry exposed him to future clients, who found White from photos posted by the organization. That’s when he knew he could use his newfound skills to start his own photography business, which he currently operates full time in Nashville.
“No matter if you’re getting paid or volunteering, always give 100% because you never know who is watching,” says White. “That’s what launched a photography career for me because all these other companies saw what I did as a volunteer, and that’s how I started getting paid to do it.”
If you’re interested in following their lead, browse volunteer jobs on Monster and see where they can take your career.
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