By Dee Allan

Most people have experienced the slow slog of conducting online job searches and firing resumes down vague, unmanned generic email black holes. Over the years, I’ve started to suggest that jobseekers try other creative ways to be noticed when it comes to applying or being interviewed for jobs. One such way is to offer to volunteer.

A perfect time to explore the option of volunteering is either at application stage, when you can offer to volunteer as part of your cover letter, or during the interview itself.

The mere gesture of volunteering, whether you are taken up on your offer or not, acts as a powerful way to get you noticed and create a lasting impression. After all, how many other applicants will volunteer their time?

A Personal Volunteering Story

Back in early 2018, I was introduced to a British tech startup which was launching a social marketplace application. The company was looking for a copywriter to write a well-researched white paper. I volunteered to write up their paper for free.

At the time I wasn’t actually looking for a job, but wanted to gain experience writing more robust research orientated papers.

I spent the next few months researching data and statistics, scouring other research papers and fact-based studies for supporting evidence. Finally, I wrote up the 15,000-word report with multiple rounds of edits.

During the write-up phase, I offered to participate in the weekly global calls, where project team members from the US, UK and myself in Singapore would dial into a conference call. These calls occurred at around 4am, Singapore time, on Monday mornings. I attended each one, even if they lingered beyond the two-hour call allocation.

After completing my project deliverables, the owner of the company contacted me to offer me a full-time senior board-level position on the team, as well as equity in the company. He had never seen a copy of my resume.

By volunteering, I had proven to him that I was proactive, willing, resourceful and dependable. The company had had an opportunity to ‘try before they buy’. I was noticed as I was prepared to ‘give’ without demanding anything in return.

As it turned out, I kindly turned down the offer, but kept in touch and left the door open for a possible collaboration in the future.

I share this example to demonstrate that volunteering can be a powerful tool to get noticed. You don’t have to dedicate months or wake up before sunrise to prove your worth. However, you may consider volunteering if the opportunity is worth it.

Why Volunteer?

In the Singapore context, with visa restrictions and quotas, volunteering can really help both the job seeker and hiring company for various different reasons. The hiring company gets to see you in action without any risk to them and, at the same time, you get to preview the company, its culture and the office environment while sampling the type of work you may be hired for. This is also a fantastic way to network and build a human connection with other hiring managers and staff members, which works deeper than an introduction made during an interview. Your new connections may have vacancies in their respective departments and, by making yourself known, you are exuding confidence and goodwill as you are effectively saying “I’m willing to work for you risk-free in order for you to make an effective assessment of my skills”. This makes you a prime candidate for potential opportunities.

Volunteering Pointers

Volunteering may open doors for you regardless of whether you are offered a job or not. Here are some pointers to note:

  1. Meet as many internal staff members as possible and find out about the culture of the company.
  2. Stay in touch with those who you think may add value to your job search.

  3. Ask fellow colleagues for guidance and advice. Their knowledge and contacts may be invaluable to you for your future career.

  4. Be pleasant and authentic with everyone you meet. It’s likely they will be asked for their feedback about you once you leave.

  5. Go over and above the call of duty, looking constantly to add notable value to the duties you have been assigned.

  6. Be proactive and look for ways to help. Don’t always wait to be given instructions.

  7. Share what you have observed in a constructive manner.

  8. Thank your department, human resources and the hiring manager for their time.

  9. Enjoy the experience, learn what you can and network to the max. You never know if your paths will cross again.

  10. Your objective is to be memorable and valuable.