One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome while getting into the IT field is landing a job with little to no experience. Frequently job seekers are frustrated to see job postings where hands on experience is a requirement.
In this article we will explore ways you can find volunteer opportunities that will help you add valuable experience to your resume.
The first step to pursuing volunteer opportunities is to gain fundamental knowledge in specific areas of the IT field. Whether you went through technical training or did self study for a certification, you’ll need to have some level of knowledge before you can pursue volunteer opportunities. For example, you shouldn’t look to volunteer with an ISP if you don’t know the basic operation of a router.
Once you have some technical skills you are ready to volunteer and gain hands on experience.
What kind of work?
Naturally, you might wonder where you can volunteer and what kind of work you can do. The following are a few places to start-
- Nonprofit organizations
- Schools and School Districts
- Hospitals or Healthcare providers
Shelters, churches and other nonprofit organizations such as the YMCA often rely on technology professionals or professionals-to-be to do everything from set up local area networks to develop Web sites. Nonprofit organizations typically have limited IT resources and need as much help as they can get.
Volunteer work with nonprofits can vary greatly and cover a lot of aspects of IT. The range of skills is wide and you can gain a tremendous amount of hands on skills in a short period of time.
Another wonderful place to look is schools and school districts. Schools have ongoing challenges from many perspectives. Students need access to resources in a secure fashion and with such an emphasis with distance learning, the need for technology professionals will continue to grow.
Typically schools need extra resources with physically installing equipment in classrooms, moving computers, and cleaning/re-installing software. Now with distance learning being so prominent, schools have more opportunities with networking, security, and application delivery through distance learning applications. Configuring and setting up tablets and Chromebooks is also becoming a standard for many IT departments in schools.
Hospitals and Healthcare providers have plenty of volunteer opportunities to explore. These environments are different from nonprofits and schools as they generally have bigger IT departments. With this comes more policies and procedures but that’s not a bad thing!
Doctors, nurses, and other staff within healthcare clinics always need additional support. Computers and technology are in constant use for looking up patient information, scheduling appointments, and inputting data into lab tests. Most volunteer opportunities in hospitals will be in support. Be ready to troubleshoot printing, install software, update software, help end users with getting their job done.
Where to look
Luckily now it’s easier than ever to find opportunities. You can search online for nonprofits in your area. Call and ask to speak to the IT manager and explain how you’d like to volunteer and help their organization. You can check job sites such as Indeed or Monster for opportunities as well. If you are interested in schools, there is a specific site dedicated to openings for schools.
Another thing I recommend is to create a Linkedin profile and begin to network with other professionals in your area. You can make your headline- “Looking for volunteer opportunities” or “Open to work”. Taking time to make some tweaks to your profile and networking with other professionals in your area can go a long way to helping you land a job or a volunteer opportunity.
Though it’s not a guaranteed way to overcome having no professional experience (nothing is, after all), volunteering is a valuable way to prove yourself. It can also help you make the contacts needed for a successful job search.
If you’re planning to volunteer, you should also have a genuine desire to help the organization rather than just gain quick experience and split once you’ve got a full-time job.
As you can see, volunteer work is great hands-on experience and it looks good on a resume.