September 20, 2005
Dear Mr. Walberg: I am a recent graduate of medical billing and have been unsuccessful, so far, in my job search. I am considering doing volunteer work in a local hospital in order to get a head start on my career, and am scheduled for volunteer orientation in a few days. There will be an interview after the orientation, and I know that one of the questions will be, "What are the reasons why you want to volunteer?" Shall I be honest and tell them I hope volunteering may lead me to a full time job? - e-mail from M.K.
Dear M.K.: What a wonderful question about a very important subject - volunteering.
Yes, you should tell them exactly that. You are interested in beginning your career in medical billing and feel that volunteering would not only help others, but also help yourself in improving your workplace skills in this area. You can also tell them that you want the opportunity to be able to show the employer what other skills you are able to bring to their table - workplace attributes like a positive attitude, work ethic, reliability, honesty, energy. In addition, you can tell them that you believe volunteering can help you with your networking, for career and for personal growth.
Volunteer work is a wonderful way to help your community while building workplace skills and developing a powerful network. And the work you do as a volunteer spices up your resume with legitimate work experience. It doesn't matter whether you receive a paycheck each week, but it does matter that you are working and developing experience, workplace habits leading to productivity, and that you are building references who can be helpful to you in your future.
For entry level folks, for individuals making career transitions and for people interested in relocating to other cities, volunteering can help you get established.
Check with local hospitals, public libraries, chambers of commerce and your choice of churches or synagogues for volunteer opportunities. You may also check with local entertainment news magazines that often list volunteer opportunities.
Volunteering is just one more way to do what others often fail to do and help you open the door to hidden job opportunities.
(Marvin Walberg is a job search consultant based in Birmingham, Ala. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 43056, Birmingham, AL, 35243. E-mail him at mwalberg(at)bellsouth.net.)