How to Steer Your Passion Into a New Career by Volunteering

Guest post by Miles Maftean.

You may have heard the saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

You may have already landed your dream role, but if you’re one of the 85% of people who dislike their jobs, you might be wondering how you can become part of the lucky minority who love their jobs. But does this mean you should abandon your well-paying, stable job to follow your passion? And how do you even go about landing your dream job in a field you’re passionate about?

In this post, you’ll find ways to pursue your passion with different volunteer opportunities and leverage those experiences in your search for a career you love. You’ll also learn how volunteering helps you hone in on career goals, develop professional skills, expand your networks and find opportunities to make the transition to your dream job realistic.

Are you ready to jump into a more passionate career? Let’s begin!

Following Your Passion Can be Risky

You’ll always have passions; they’re innate. If someone tells you to abandon your passions, right here and now, that’s terrible advice. Because, like many things in life, passions can change. Think of something you loved when you were a teenager. Do you still feel as strongly about it?

When I was 15, I loved baseball. I thought I would grow up to be the best catcher the Chicago White Sox ever saw. Big dreams, but not realistic. And now, I don’t even like baseball anymore. If I had only pursued baseball as my career path, I’d be in trouble now.

Basing a career on fleeting passions can be risky. While doing something you love can be motivating and help you gain invaluable skills, it also requires a lot of time, effort and energy. And if you follow that passion at the exclusion of all else, it can leave you with tunnel vision.

By focusing on one passion alone, you might miss out on other skills that you can develop. Skills that can help you grow your career, a career that you can be passionate about!

Enter, Volunteering

Of course, I was never going to be a catcher in the big leagues. But just because certain dreams aren’t going to work out doesn’t mean you should drop the things you love!

Your passions play an important role in your life. How they might turn into a career, however, is a different story. What’s the best way to steer your passions into an actual job? Volunteering, for starters!

Statistics show volunteering makes you more attractive to potential employers. In fact, 82% of hiring managers prefer to choose resumes from the pile that list volunteer experience.

But there is so much more to get out of volunteering than increased odds of finding a new job. Remember, you’re trying to find the best job for you, one you can actually be passionate about. Here’s how to start.

First ask yourself what you’re truly passionate about, then find a volunteer opportunity where you can explore that further.  Most passions align with charitable cause areas, for example:

  • Outdoors: National parks have many volunteer opportunities available, from cleaning the park to giving tours. Or find an environmental organization and take part in outreach campaigns, trail maintenance, community garden workdays or beach cleanups.
  • Charity: Habitat for Humanity and local food pantries provide assistance for those in need of affordable housing and food, respectively. Volunteers can provide any number of skills, including construction, data entry, cooking or copyediting.
  • Animals: Local animal shelters and other associations are in constant need for volunteers. You can help with general administrative duties, adoption drives or even playing with or caring for animals.
  • Politics: Participate in a local, state or national election by volunteering on the campaign trail in support of a candidate you believe in. Develop many different important skills and establish a network of contacts if you’re interested in having a political career.
  • Sports: Neighborhood sports teams often need volunteer coaches. Or consider helping an organization like Special Olympics to empower individuals with intellectual disabilities through athletic competition.

Check out VolunteerMatch to find a volunteer opportunity you’re passionate about!

Volunteering for a cause you love will provide you with the opportunity to understand and explore career possibilities within a field you’re passionate about and start developing the skills needed to work in that field. Plus, you’re helping others in your community while doing so!

Another benefit of volunteering is it provides a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who are passionate about the same causes you are. By getting to know paid and volunteer staff, you’re expanding your professional network and nurturing more genuine connections than you would via LinkedIn or other social networks.

While a volunteer role has the potential to lead directly to a paid position, don’t volunteer for the sole purpose of landing a job at that organization. If you treat the experience as a short-term way to get a specific job, it may come across as disingenuous. Instead, work hard, get to know other people and learn all that you can. Your commitment will make you stand out, and this could ultimately lead to a new career opportunity.

Pounce at the Right Opportunities

You’ve been volunteering for some time, and it’s really paid off. You’ve honed your skills, networked with like-minded individuals, and perhaps most importantly, you love what you’re doing.The question is, what do you do now?

Volunteering can lead to a new career, but first: make sure you prepare and are committed to the change.

There are some important steps that you need to take to ensure that you can pivot into a new career path:

  1. Find a mentor who works in that field and ask them questions on how to transition into that line of work. Ask what skills are needed in that new role.
  2. Reach out to your professional and personal networks. Let them know you’re interested in finding a new job and ask them if they know of anything available.
  3. Update your application materials with your skills and volunteer experience. Research cover letter examples from that industry and match yours to best practices in that field.

What if you don’t have the relevant education or job experience? Don’t panic. Be confident in what you do bring to the table. Demonstrate your passion and dedication for the role in your resume and cover letter by highlighting your volunteer experience. Your dedication to the role will help you stand out from other applicants.

Finally, be patient during this time. It’s normal to want to make that move as soon as possible, but if you start the process by volunteering, you’ll be feeding your passion and gaining invaluable experience this entire time, whether or not you do land a position right away. Finding the career path perfect for you takes time, effort and energy.

Remember, nothing is set in stone, but it is up to you to get the rock rolling down the hill.

Author Bio: Miles Maftean is a Career Writer who specializes in career growth and change. In his free time, he loves reading American literature and is a taco-making master.