I get lots of questions from stay-at-home moms plotting their return to the working world. Sometimes it’s about explaining a ten-year gap in their resume. Other times it’s a query about building a client base as a freelancer, or how to completely switch to a new career. Often it’s all of the above.
The easy answer? Volunteer.
Ah, I could feel you cringing from here. “My time is too important to work for free!” Or perhaps, “Deciding which cold cuts are best for the ladies luncheon is as torturous as watching the presidential debates on a 24-hour loop!”
I feel your pain, but before you get those high-paying assignments or land the coveted corporate job, you must prove you are up to the task. And volunteering is a great way to do it.
Before I jumped back into the working world:
I led the publicity efforts for the local Junior League’s efforts to promote its annual American Girl fundraiser.
I wrote several articles for high-profile websites (including one on building your resume to get back into the work force. Read it here.)
I led the publicity efforts for a political re-election campaign, including a fundraiser with U.S. Senator BobCorker.
I wrote feature articles for an award-winning alumnae publication.
I handled publicity for the PTA, with great results (for the school. I think I got an eye twitch, but that’s another story.)
I did it all for free. Volunteering is a smart way to do some feel-good work while building your experience — no matter if you’re a writer, an accountant or a photographer. There are lots of non-profits and small businesses who could use a hand, so offer your expertise in exchange for a great reference, beef for your resume or as a way to expand your contacts.
Incidentally, in every instance I listed above, it either translated to a paying job or has given me an invaluable contact in building my business.
No matter your future plans, try volunteering — it sharpens skills you already have, builds skills you need, is a great social outlet, and best of all … it is incredibly rewarding to make a contribution to an organization that might not exist without the help of volunteers.
Amy M. Dawson is an Atlanta writer, newspaper columnist and public relations consultant. She frequently volunteers to edit everything from her husband’s emails to her daughters’ texts, but the offer is routinely declined. Find more at www.amymacwrites.com.