Monday, April 21, 2014

The Nonprofit Service Piece of LA Fellows

A big component of LA Fellows that sets it apart from other programs that help job seekers transition back into the world of employment is the 100 hours of service each Fellow contributes to a nonprofit organization of their choice. The program includes instruction on the nonprofit sector, optional grant writing classes, and conversation about how to make strategic choices on how and where to donate time in order to complement the goals of the job search.

 Adding volunteer work to the job search helps participants in several ways.

Let's face it: unemployment in 2014 can be a discouraging journey. Hiring managers, mindful of the cost of hiring the wrong person, often take longer to make decisions, taking candidates through rounds of interviews over months before settling on the one they want. Many employers, overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of resumes submitted, don't get back with applicants to let them know when they've received their application or gone with another candidate, even after interviewing. As the days and weeks and months go by it can be easy for a job hunter to start to question why they haven't gotten hired, and slip into depression. It can be hard to keep up morale but getting accepted as a volunteer by a nonprofit can definitely be the encouragement they need.

Upper right photo, L to R: Cohort 9 LA Fellows Victoria Kordysh, May Wang, Wil Walker and Phyllis Baginski contributed their time to Operation Gratitude, which provides much needed care packages to the men and women who serve our country's armed forces.

Meaningful volunteerism, using the skills that are exercised on a professional level every day to make a substantive contribution to the goals of the organization, can be a huge confidence boost, reminding the job seeker why they were so successful in their career in the past and that they still have those skills to contribute.

Working with an organization that the job seeker feels a connection to in some way and being able to further their mission can also be a source of pride and something that they can speak about in interviews with authority and enthusiasm as recent experience.

Terry Scott-Mitchell (center), LA Fellow from Cohort 9, with other volunteers
 working the information table for the Center for Nonprofit Management
Volunteering is great for networking as well. You meet a cross-section of people you might never otherwise come in contact with, and many times have the opportunity to talk and learn about each other as you work. It's not surprising that people who donate their time to nonprofit organizations tend to be involved, generous and caring individuals. These are the kinds of people that prove to be valuable assets to any network.

Finally, nonprofit organizations benefit from the experience
and skills developed by professionals
Terry Scott-Mitchell and Leroy McKinney,
LA Fellows from Cohort 9 who
volunteered at
the Center for Nonprofit Management
who have worked in the for-profit sector. As long as they are open to learning and respectful of the culture, job seekers may find that a career change to the nonprofit sector is a win-win situation, and a volunteer position can showcase their value and the kind of contribution they can make in this industry.

LA Fellows from Cohorts 1-9 have served a wealth of organizations across the Los Angeles area, many well beyond their time in the program. It's an important part of what makes the LA Fellows experience a valuable platform for helping job seekers move forward in their careers.

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