Why Volunteering Should be Part of Your Job Search Strategy
U.S. employers prefer to hire candidates with U.S. work experience to ensure that these new hires can “fit in” with American workplace culture and values. The lack of U.S. experience is one of the biggest challenges faced by skilled immigrants recently arrived in the U.S. struggling to rebuild their careers here.
Upwardly Global strongly encourages interning or volunteering as a way for immigrant jobseekers to make their path to a full-time, paid, professional job. Below are just some of the benefits of interning/volunteering:
1. Fill gaps in your resume
Employers will likely look negatively at employment gaps in your resume. They want to know what you’ve been doing while out of work. Explaining to employers that you have been volunteering your skills and gaining new ones will sound more active and positive than saying that you’ve been job searching for 6 months or several years. In addition, interning or volunteering shows employers that it is important to you to continue polish your skills, that you are eager to contribute, and, most importantly, that you stay up-to-date in industry trends.
2. Add new skills to your resume
Just because an internship or volunteer role is unpaid does not mean that volunteers gain nothing positive from the experience. Most internships or volunteer roles provide opportunities to learn new skills or technology through hands-on experience. For example, some “UpGlo” jobseekers recently had the chance to master a new database technology. In addition to technical skills, interns and volunteers improve U.S. industry vocabulary and communication skills while gaining U.S. workplace savvy.
3. Showcase skills you already have
Volunteering can help you showcase skills you already possess and use them to benefit the organization and community. If you were a successful HIV/AIDS activist in Ecuador, for example, you can raise awareness for your favorite cause in the U.S. by leveraging your industry experience and native Spanish skills, enabling the organization to reach the critical audiences they need.
4. Expand your U.S. networks and gain U.S. references
When high-skilled immigrants migrate to the U.S. they leave behind the professional contacts it took them their entire careers to build. Through volunteering or interning, immigrants can start rebuilding those networks – anan essential job search resource in this country where “who you know” is just as important as “what you know.” Direct supervisors or team members at an U.S. internship or volunteer position can serve as professional references for U.S. employers considering hiring you. This is a major asset for high-skilled immigrants whose previous supervisors are outside the U.S. or who might not have strong enough English skills to effectively discuss their performance with the U.S. employers considering hiring them here.
5. Improve English skills
Newly arrived immigrants prefer to stay within their own community because that’s where they feel comfortable. Staying only within your comfort zone will limit your opportunities to practice and master the English language. As a volunteer or intern in this country, your constant use of English on the job will improve your English skills (and your confidence!) quickly and comprehensively. At every level of English proficiency, working closely with native speakers will help you improve your language skill and learn industry-specific jargon.
6. Increase employability
In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 63%(of 600 hiring managers) said they consider volunteer work to be relevant experience when evaluating a candidate. Companies that have seen first-hand the high quality contributions you can make, who already know that you “fit in” with their staff and know in-house policies and procedures, will strongly consider you first when they have an opening.
Interning or volunteering is a win-win situation both for jobseekers and employers.
- Job seekers gain the opportunity to get their “foot in the door,” showcase the skills they possess, learn new skills, and gain U.S. networks and references.
- Employers can access your unique your skills and qualifications, including your diverse language skills.
About Upwardly Global Upwardly Global, founded in 2000, is a national, award-winning nonprofit organization with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. Upwardly Global helps legal, high skilled immigrants rebuild their professional careers in the U.S. by providing professional job search training and access to employers with global talent needs. To date, the organization has coached 2,700 skilled immigrants and has assisted over 1,300 professionals return to their career fields. To learn more about the organization, please visit www.upwardlyglobal.org.
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The views, opinions, or expressions provided by Upwardly Global do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or expressions of the City of New York and/or the New York City Department of Small Business Services.