Unlocking career opportunities: The power of volunteering
2024/01/23 | By Elizabeth Morris-Corrochano | Photo by Adria Crehuet Cano
In today’s competitive job market, job seekers are constantly searching for ways to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on potential employers. One often-overlooked strategy that can make a significant difference in your job search is volunteering.
There are many multifaceted benefits of volunteering as a potent strategy for job seekers in the Dutch context, as volunteering serves as a bridge to building a robust local network, fostering personal skill development, and maintaining active engagement during the job hunt.
Building a robust local network
In the Netherlands, as in many other countries, the saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” holds a great deal of truth when it comes to securing job opportunities. Volunteering offers a unique avenue to expand your network and connect with professionals in your field of interest. By engaging in volunteer work, you have the chance to meet like-minded individuals who are passionate about the same causes or industries.
Imagine you are a recent graduate looking for your first job in marketing. Volunteering for a local non-profit organisation’s marketing team can introduce you to experienced professionals in the field. These connections can offer insights into industry trends, provide mentorship, and even tip you off about job openings that may not be advertised elsewhere.
Furthermore, building a strong local network through volunteering can help you gain a better understanding of the Dutch job market and its unique dynamics. It allows you to tap into the wisdom of those who have successfully navigated the Dutch employment landscape, helping you make informed decisions about your career path.
Fostering personal skill development
Volunteering is not just about giving your time, it’s also an opportunity to acquire and hone valuable skills that are transferable to your professional life. Dutch employers highly value individuals with a diverse skill set and a proactive approach to self-improvement. Volunteering can help you develop these qualities in several ways by both contributing skills you already have or in developing new ones.
Firstly, volunteering allows you to take on roles and responsibilities that you might not have encountered in your day-to-day life or previous jobs. This can range from leadership positions in volunteer organisations to mastering new technical or soft skills. For instance, if you volunteer to organise fundraising events for a local charity, you’ll gain event planning and project management experience, which can be attractive to employers.
Secondly, volunteering often requires individuals to work in diverse teams and adapt to different working environments. These experiences can improve your communication skills, cultural awareness, and adaptability—all qualities that make you a more appealing candidate to Dutch employers who value a global perspective.
Finally, volunteering can provide you with concrete examples of your skills in action. When job hunting, being able to discuss specific accomplishments and experiences gained through volunteering can set you apart during interviews and make your resume more compelling.
Maintaining active engagement during the job hunt
The job search process can be lengthy and demoralising, especially if you face multiple rejections or prolonged periods of unemployment. Volunteering can serve as a lifeline during these challenging times by keeping you engaged, motivated, and connected to a sense of purpose.
Many job seekers experience a loss of self-esteem and motivation as they struggle to secure employment. Volunteering allows you to contribute to a cause you care about, fostering a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment. This positivity can spill over into your job search, helping you maintain a positive attitude even in the face of rejection.
ACCESS volunteer Mark Foley first arrived in the Netherlands from Dublin ten years ago. Coming from a financial background, Foley brought his knowledge to ACCESS and began working at the help desk. “It’s important to remain active while making the transition to a new country”, says Foley, who now trains new ACCESS volunteers. Foley believes every volunteer brings something different to the table and has unique skills and experiences to share.
Moreover, volunteering can help you fill gaps in your resume that may have arisen due to unemployment. Employers often view candidates who have been actively involved in volunteer work during job gaps more favourably than those who haven’t.
Volunteering is a powerful strategy for job seekers in the Dutch job market. It not only helps you build a robust local network and foster personal skill development, but also keeps you actively engaged during the job hunt. By strategically balancing your volunteer commitments with job applications, you can enhance your employability, experience personal growth, and maintain your well-being. By embracing volunteer opportunities, you’ll find yourself on a path to success in the dynamic Dutch job market.
Practical Advice on Balancing Volunteering and Job Applications
Balancing volunteer commitments while job hunting can be a challenge. Here are some practical tips to help you navigate this balancing act effectively:
- Set clear boundaries: Establish a schedule for your volunteer work that allows you dedicated time for job hunting. Communicate these boundaries with your volunteer organisation to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Prioritise your job search: While volunteering is essential, your primary goal is to secure employment. Allocate more time and energy to job applications and interviews, especially when you’re close to securing a job.
- Choose volunteer roles strategically: Look for volunteer opportunities that align with your career goals and offer opportunities for skill development. This way, your volunteer work becomes an investment in your future.
- Network strategically: Make use of your volunteer network to connect with potential employers and industry professionals. Attend networking events and conferences related to your field to maximise your exposure.
- Stay organised: Use tools like calendars and to-do lists to manage your time effectively. Keep track of application deadlines, interviews, and volunteer commitments to avoid scheduling conflicts.
About the author
Elizabeth Morris-Corrochano was born and raised in Valencia, Spain, where she studied fashion design and musical theatre. Founder of the deejay collective, Pink Rata, Elizabeth travels regularly between Spain and the Netherlands.