Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

Need Skills for a New Job? Volunteer! March 27, 2013

Filed under: Grab bag,HandsOn Leadership — seattleworks @ 11:04 am

Guest post by HandsOn Leadership volunteer Christine McMullin.

My husband and I touched down in Seattle on a chilly December night with one suitcase, our cat, and his offer letter from Amazon.

In Chicago, I was a well-connected professional, who had an extensive network and lots and LOTS of connections. But, in Chicago, I didn’t like my job. So, here, without connections, it was time to make a fresh start as clean as the Puget Sound.

What was my plan? Volunteer, of course.

Amping Up Your Skills

If there was one thing I had learned from volunteer projects with my Young Professionals Association and Taproot Service Grants, it was that you can get so much exposure from volunteering just a few hours of your time.

Taproot emphasizes “probono” work instead of volunteering, which is the model that I ascribe to. When you are doing probono work, you are exercising skills you already have, while stretching them in new ways. You are also showcasing your skills to a completely different audience than you have before.

For me, I wanted to segue from writing and editing into content strategy, which is a bigger version of editorial guidance for all digital materials. With some help from and the Seattle HandsOn Network Leadership training in January, I was ready to go!

Teching Up My Portfolio, For a Good Cause

After my training, I chose to work on the Girl Scouts of Western Washington’s project to recruit volunteers to expand their reach to girls who don’t have the traditional mom or grandma available to lead troops or volunteer at events. They especially want to recruit the coveted Millennial group. What a worthy cause and just perfect for me to try out my newly minted content strategy skills.

Since I’m a volunteer, I have the luxury of a little more time on projects. That means that I have some wiggle room if I’m not sure how to do something. Making a mistake in a high-pressure job might mean I get fired. With this project, I can learn from my mistakes and do it better the next time.

And, learning by doing, especially for such a worthy cause, means that I understand concepts in action, instead of just theory. Girl Scouts gets something it could not produce alone. I get experience.

My (very supportive) team at the Girl Scouts has been very pleased with our progress so far. And, with pieces of the project going up on my LinkedIn, my profile has been looked at and shown up in more searches lately. When I go on informational interviews, I send some samples from my Girl Scouts work ahead and people are incredibly impressed.

So, I’m confident that, when the right job comes along, I’ll be ready. And I’ll owe a lot of what I talk about in the interview to the Girl Scouts and HandsOn Leadership training.

Want to help us in our mission to recruit Millennials? Take a few minutes to take our survey. We’ll be eternally grateful!

Of course, if you’d just like to volunteer, see what Girl Scouts has available here. Or take HandsOn Leadership yourself!

Christine is a ghostwriter and university instructor of writing when she’s not busy volunteering and learning new skills. You can connect with her on Twitter @CMcMChatter


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