by Lisa Leisenheimer

In today’s economy, finding a job can be difficult. With many skilled people looking for work, employers can afford to be choosy. You need to provide a resume that will stand out from all the others even if the jobs you’re applying for aren’t a perfect match for your skill set. Employers want employees with experience and essential job skills, such as management, communication, or organizational skills. How do you learn these skills if you can't get hired to learn and gain experience? Try volunteering!


A volunteer organization not only provides a variety of much needed civic and community services, but can also be a safe place to practice and learn some of those essential job skills. This can be accomplished by taking leadership roles within the organization.


Chairing a Project

Most organizations will have projects to chair. These projects usually require a lot of planning and preparation, especially for events. Projects within the organization will vary depending on the purpose and the size, but the basic skills that can be learned include how to be a team player, leadership, organization, and written and verbal communication.


Most projects require a committee (your team), giving you practice working with a variety of personality types. As a project chair, you work with your committee to complete a list of goals. You also organize committee meetings, which may require a written agenda. As the chairperson, you need to make sure the meetings run smoothly to ensure everyone stays on task. You delegate duties, take notes, and communicate through e-mails or phone calls. You make sure all the details are completed and that everyone is doing their job. When the project is finished, a project report may be written, and a final verbal report may be given to the organization.


Taking a Leadership Role

Depending on the organization, officers (like president, secretary, treasurer) may be needed. Each officer has a different set of duties, but you can learn essential skills of time management, leadership, organization, communication, and conflict resolution. As an officer, you may be required to stand in front of the membership to give reports. You may write e-mails or newsletters. You may even need to call members or businesses asking for donations. Some officers also supervise others who report to them. If there are conflicts with members in the organization, you may need to resolve them.


Value Added

All of these scenarios may require you to step out of your comfort zone and do things that you don’t like or to try things that you haven’t done before. Each time you do these things, you will gain experience and confidence that can be transferred to a resume and discussed during a job interview, giving you a little something extra to help you stand out from all the others.


The best part is that there are usually others in the organization willing to help you along the way. If at any point you are uncertain of what to do next, don't be afraid to ask for help.


Lisa Leisenheimer is a forecast analyst for Kroger Company's Pace Dairy Foods located in Rochester, Minnesota and Crawfordsville, Indiana. She volunteers on a regular basis and contributes much of her success to her experiences in Women of Today, an non-profit unaffiliated with any religion or political tendency that focuses on community service, personal growth, and building friendships. She has been a member for 18 years and has filled many leadership roles in the organization. Lisa is currently serving as a District Director and the secretary for the Minnesota Women of Today Foundation.