Did you take some time off from your career to raise your children or care for an ill family member? Are you worried about jumping back into the workforce with that gap on your resume? You are not alone. According to a recent Women in the Workplace survey from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 43 percent of highly educated women leave jobs to tend to family-related issues, and then 90 percent of them plan to head back to work at some point.
It can be quite intimidating to try and get back on the career train after taking time off. An effective way to fill in your resume holes is to volunteer because it can help sharpen your current skills and develop new ones. According to Noelle Gross on her career strategy website, “When a recruiter or hiring manager is scanning your resume he/she will want to know that your skills haven’t become rusty during your time off. Adding gap-filling volunteer experience… will be a game changer because it will visually and experientially fill the gap.”
Volunteering can help prepare you to re-enter the workforce by honing some of the existing skills you haven’t used in a while. If you managed a budget, organized events, or led marketing efforts before your time off, you can update these skills by getting involved in charitable organizations who would love to tap into your experience. Another area that often needs refreshing is technology. By volunteering, you can keep on top of all the new computer programs and social media being used. Volunteering can also give you a chance to use skills that you learned in school or through a hobby that can lead to a new career, such as communicating in a second language or creative arts skills like graphic design.
Decide What is Right for You
Volunteer work is also an effective way to learn new skills in a risk-free environment before committing to a new position. For example, if you are interested in being an event planner, you could volunteer to organize events for a charitable organization to gauge your true level of interest. You can gain both soft and hard skills by volunteering. Soft skills include things like communication, program management, team building, delegating, and organizational skills. Hard skills are more specific and involve taking an interest or hobby that you have never pursued formally and developing them. For example, you could become a crisis counselor after volunteering for a women’s shelter or a website designer by working on a nonprofit’s website.
Volunteering while taking time off to raise children proved effective for Carol Johnson. “While I stayed home for 10 years with my children, I managed a PTA Facebook page and helped with social media for my church. I felt intimidated reentering the workforce, but now I’m two years into my marketing job and those volunteer opportunities are proving to be helpful!” There are so many organizations doing incredible work who welcome your help. To find a volunteer opportunity that’s a good fit, check out Volunteer Match, Idealist, Create The Good, or Just Serve.