One of the best ways to gain entrepreneurial skills is to… volunteer? Yes, you read that right. Volunteering can expand your entrepreneurial toolbox in ways you’ve never imagined.
Below, we’ll discuss how you can exhibit skills gained during volunteerism to a potential employer or investor. Then, we’ll look at specific skills you are likely to obtain.
How to Advertise Skills Gained While Volunteering
How do you let a potential employer (or investor) know about your valuable skills obtained via volunteering? A motivation letter is a good place to showcase them. Motivation letters are a type of cover letter often used by those entering the workforce for the first time. The point is to highlight your passions and goals in order to motivate your reader to hire or support you.
You can also use the Skills section of your resume. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the volunteer organization, you can list your experience in the Work Experience section or in a separate section called Volunteering or Volunteerism.
Your First Startup
Many nonprofit organizations, especially relatively new ones, operate a lot like startups – bare-bones, bootstrapped, and funded by donors.
Working in this environment can help you get your feet wet as to what operating your business startup might be like. You may encounter tasks like budgeting, advertising, scheduling, or management for the first time. You can observe challenges and help implement solutions to problems.
In fact, a volunteer organization might be your first startup, especially if you’ve seen a need in your community for which no formal solution yet exists. If you decide to found a non-profit to fill that need, you give yourself a front-row seat to what running an organization is like.
Acquire Skills to Fill The Need
Having a “see a need, fill a need” attitude can be a great way to build new skills. Need may motivate you to learn skills you never before considered.
Many volunteer organizations are especially in need of technical skills. They may need you to build a website, develop an app, set up a computer network, create an Excel file for budgeting, film and edit a promotional video, or something similar. If you don’t already know how to do these things, you can research them online to learn how.
You may also learn specific industry skills in the course of the volunteer services the organization provides. For example, you might learn construction, cooking, or logistical skills while working with more experienced volunteers. The insights you gain can empower your future decision-making, or you may even found your startup in one of these industries.
Learn to Lead
After working with the organization for some time, you may be entrusted with additional responsibilities. By observing others and through trial and error, you can cultivate strong leadership skills. How can you motivate your team? How can you handle an emergency situation or a conflict between volunteers? These skills are transferable wherever your career may take you.
Leading volunteers is a great proving ground for your leadership skills because it comes with special challenges. If you fail to inspire, your volunteers can just walk away. You can sharpen your communication skills and promote a workplace culture that keeps volunteers happy and returning.
Learn to Network
Networking is vitally important to entrepreneurs. It is through networking that they gain funding, get their products on store shelves, attract talent, and more.
Networking is equally vital to volunteer organizations. It is the means by which they gain funding, too, as well as determining areas of need and recruiting new volunteers.
Get to know as many people as you can during your volunteer work. Reach out to them on LinkedIn to stay in touch. You will first get the hang of how networking works. You may also be surprised how valuable these early contacts may be later on your entrepreneurial journey.
Find Your Passion
Volunteering can help you find your passion. How?
As a volunteer, you may be exposed to tasks you would never have considered otherwise. You may come to love them.
You may also come to love groups of people that you may not otherwise have encountered. Filling a specific need may provide your future startup with a niche market.
Why is passion important to an entrepreneur? Founding and cultivating a startup is hard work. If you are going to stick with it and succeed, you need to be enthusiastic and really believe in what you are doing.
Volunteering can equip new entrepreneurs—young and old—with a sturdy tool-set of valuable skills. You can learn the basics of managing an organization, specific technical or trade skills, leadership, networking, and where your passion lies.
So equipped, you will be more ready than ever to reach your goal of starting your own business while also paying it forward. Get out of your comfort zone and volunteer in your community today.