Volunteer Your Way to a New Job

Networking and soft skills create opportunity

volunteer
Barbara Marbury (l.) works with a student in her new job.

Barbara Marbury wasn’t looking for a new job. Now employed at the University of Oregon’s Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, she and her husband had recently relocated to Eugene. She wanted to fill her time doing something meaningful.

“The very first friend I made after relocating was well-connected and involved in community service,” Marbury told me in an e-mail. “She introduced me to the directors of two volunteer programs as someone who could be helpful to them.”

Soon Marbury was volunteering for both programs, including TrackTown USA, which promotes and organizes national and international track and field events in Oregon. Her volunteer work led to a paid position as protocol manager for TTUSA. She worked on the 2014 World Junior Track and Field Championships, and the quality of her work was noticed.

“I was responsible for the planning, coordination, and hosting of all VIP events, including the welcome dinner, the closing reception for IAAF council members, IAAF council family member excursions, and the closing athlete party.”

 

Good Work Gets Noticed

 

At the VIP events, Marbury met the vice president of university functions.

“We had brief discussions about the volunteer work I had done and also the mentoring/tutoring work I had done during my full-time career.”

I asked Marbury if she had been told why the university wanted to hire her.

“When she approached me about working for her, she stated that she had seen my ability to interact with people and to get things done,” Marbury replied. “She also liked that I am client- or customer-oriented and have a heart for service.”

Marbury cites her hard skills as familiarity with Excel, Google Docs, and Office 360, but her soft skills are what have really opened doors for her—even when she wasn’t seeking an employment opportunity.

Her portfolio of soft skills includes “the ability to communicate well and create a welcoming atmosphere, being a team player, and the willingness to fill in gaps or identify resources.”

 

Want to volunteer your way into a new job?

 

Marbury offers the following advice:

  • Identify something you are passionate about.
  • If you have a unique skill set, make others aware of how you could contribute to the organization’s success.
  • Make sure you are well informed about the organization you want to volunteer or work for.
  • Find a contact or mentor that can vouch for your abilities or help you develop your skills.
  • Put forth your best effort and show that you are a team player.

“Networking is just as important for volunteering opportunities as it is for paid positions,” Marbury says. “You never know when a chance meeting or connection could turn into an opportunity.”