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How to Get a Green Job through Volunteerism

Who says that you have to earn money for the job to be worthwhile? In fact, volunteering is one of the most effective ways to build a socially responsible network. In the process, you build a more attractive resume and gain relevant experience that will make environmentally friendly companies want to hire you. You may just make the one connection you need to land a terrific green job.

But before you sign up at the nearest nonprofit, follow these guidelines for finding the right volunteer opportunity for you and for advancing your job-hunt:

  • Volunteer for a cause you believe in, even if it isn’t a traditionally eco-focused issue. Don’t just volunteer because it will look good on your resume. The people you work with — organizers, sponsors, and other volunteers — will notice and recall the extra zing you brought to the project.

  • Set up your volunteer work so it works for you. Perhaps your schedule dictates that you work on a series of individual short-term projects. Or you have the ability to arrange your schedule around a regular volunteer shift on a weekly basis. Take transportation (both mode and time) into consideration before signing on. Whatever you commit to, be prepared to follow through. Do all you can to demonstrate that you are reliable and dependable.

  • Take the opportunity to get to know the people you are volunteering with. Be available to talk when opportunities present themselves. Do your homework so you know who is affiliated with the organization. If you discover one of the funders, executives, or sponsors would be a good connection for you, introduce yourself at events, or request an introduction after you’ve been part of the organization a while.

  • When you leave the volunteer organization, ask for a written recommendation for your records. Or have someone from the organization add a recommendation to your LinkedIn page for all to see.

Wondering where to find volunteer organizations in your area? Use the following volunteer categories as a starting point. Exploring your community may bring additional opportunities to light.

  • Green teams: Check to see if your city or region has an active green team that is sponsored by the city or has grown from a grass-roots effort. Green teams are very active programs to encourage residents and businesses to go green. Get involved and you’ll meet individuals committed to the environment and community. Check to see if your city has an environmentally focused commission where you could play a role in your city’s future.

  • Cool Cities: Co   ol Cities is a Sierra Club campaign to turn North America green, one city at a time. Click the map to discover Cool Cities teams in your area.

  • Environmental nonprofits: Do some research in your area to discover organizations working on environmental projects or issues. You may find hands-on projects, activist campaigns, or fundraising opportunities.

  • Volunteer center: Search the Web for a volunteer center in your area. These centers are designed to match volunteers with projects.

  • Idealist: Use this search engine to find volunteer activities in your area that match your target keywords and focus.

  • Networking groups: Networking groups often need volunteers to keep the meetings going. Another opportunity exists if your region doesn’t yet have a green/sustainability networking group. Take the lead to build a group in your community — you’ll get to know everyone in the area and they will see you as a leader.

If you aren’t able to volunteer in person due to your travel schedule or personal responsibilities, look for volunteer activities you can do virtually. Whether the volunteer organization is in town or across the globe, you do all your work from your own computer. Check out Volunteer Match or Idealist for possibilities.

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