Volunteering is the New Black

So for those of you who are finding it difficult to get back into the work force, put your “free” time to good use- volunteer!

Volunteering at a museum, science center, zoo, aquarium or other non-profit may help towards landing a paid position or at the very least help you hone and strengthen your skills and gain experience in the field.

Here are Tips on Volunteering from Museums Association, the Britain-based oldest museums association in the world:

• Don’t limit your efforts to national and large regional museums and galleries. They are probably overwhelmed with requests for voluntary work.

• Apply to smaller local museums. You are likely to get a broader range of experience.

• Treat your request as if you are applying for paid work – find out about the museums you are interested in, visit them if you can and when you contact them explain why you want to volunteer for them.

• Be honest about how much time you have available – you’re more likely to find an opening if you are available for the same amount of time each week.

• Remember that it’s not the amount of experience you gain through volunteering but what you make of it that will count in your favour when looking to progress your career in museums or galleries.

Of course checking out your local favorite museum may be the best place to start. Often, museums have volunteer coordinators who can answer any questions you may have, provide scheduling information and let you know what kind of commitment is needed on your end.

If you are concerned about your available time and would prefer not to commit to a long-term volunteer position, a good alternative is volunteering  with conferences and professional development programs via museums or regional associations. Offering such support is likely to provide great networking opportunities with fellow event staff, presenters, and program attendees. Another plus, in some cases your registration fee for this professional development opportunity will be waived.

On a personal note, I was able to attend the Upstate History Alliance as a volunteer last week, an opportunity that led to volunteering at the recent Greater Hudson Heritage Network’s Pracitcum for Museum Professionals in 21st Century Historic House Museums. Both opportunities enabled me to meet a lot of great people in the field, take lots of notes on a variety of topics and save my waived registration fees for gas!

While you’re letting all this soak in, check out Idealist for available volunteer opportunities and get involved today!

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