How to volunteer your way to a new PR job

Identify and secure a meaningful volunteer position that could lead to paid employment.

Overwhelmed with job hunting? Getting discouraged by the lack of call backs from the dozens of résumés you’ve sent?

Instead of getting dispirited, get to work. Stop cyber-spamming employers and start volunteering. There are thousands of organizations where you can showcase your value.

The following is a step by step guide to identifying and securing a meaningful volunteer position that can move you closer to paid employment opportunities.

1. Carefully select an organization based on your interests and capabilities.
These may include:

• Non-profits;
• Non-government organizations;
• Schools;
• Churches;
• Chambers of commerce;
• Convention and visitors’ bureaus;
• Municipal offices;
• Economic development centers;
• Hospitals.

2. Once you have targeted an organization, review volunteer policies. Consider areas where the organization needs help, and create your own position based on your professional knowledge and abilities.

As a professional communicator, you can show off your value in several ways:

• Revamp and manage social media efforts;
• Design and/or write newsletters;
• Handle fundraising efforts;
• Support event planning and marketing;
• Create a media relations plan;
• Train and mentor other volunteers, clients, or members;
• Identify and support new marketing or public relations initiatives.

3. Set specific goals for your volunteer efforts. They might include:

• Grow your professional network (most organizations have highly influential board members and corporate partners);
• Fill résumé gaps with meaningful work;
• Develop or improve new skills;
• Secure current references;
• Earn a paid position at the organization;
• Improve your interpersonal skills and maintain your confidence;
• Benefit society.

As you volunteer, continue with the job hunt, save portfolio-friendly work, and maintain a positive and confident outlook. By showcasing your value and contributing to an organization’s success, you will gain experience, make valuable contacts, and maybe even parlay your volunteer position into a paid fulltime spot.

Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @LorraBrownPR.

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