Volunteering is an activity or work you undertake for the good of others or society. According to Aristotle, the essence of life is to serve others and do good. For those in the Tech Industry, volunteering can provide a platform for you to practice your skills. If you do volunteer your skills, there are benefits to you too. In a study conducted by Career Builders, 60 percent of Hiring managers see volunteering as a valuable asset in the recruitment process. This blog post will help you explore tech volunteering opportunities, the importance of volunteering as it relates to gaining some job experience, and how it can enhance your career. It will also suggest some useful online resources or places where you can explore volunteering opportunities.
There has been significant growth in the demand for tech skills in volunteering roles, as a direct consequence of many non-profit organizations using technology to enhance their reach and meet their goals. Someone with some basic skills and the right disposition will find tech volunteering opportunities and value in being engaged in such.
The Benefits Of Volunteering For Your Tech Career
Volunteering in tech roles can have a huge impact on your career especially if you are just starting out in your professional journey. Some of the benefits are highlighted below;
1. Building Real-World Skills
One of the biggest challenges for beginners in tech careers is how to translate what they have learned in the course of training or certification into real-world skills. Volunteering can help bridge this gap, and help you gain valuable, hands-on practical experience in a real-world scenario. For many people, the last of working or practical experience is often one of the biggest challenges to landing their first job. For those already employed, it is still a great way to enhance your skills, it affords you the opportunity to work on projects that pique your interests.
2. Networking Opportunities
Engaging in Volunteering opportunities can greatly increase your network and expose you to many career-lifting opportunities. People and organizations are much more motivated to offer you paid positions (when available) if you have volunteered in the past for them. The network of persons you have can be very influential in your career advancements and in the number of opportunities available to you. For many positions, people and organizations will preface to hire who they know or have worked with in the past.
3. Resume Building
As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of hiring managers see volunteering as valuable in the employment process. So having that in your resume improves your value to the prospective employer. It shows that are passionate about your skills in using them to help others and that you are motivated by other things besides money. In a competitive marketplace, that can be the difference between being hired or rejected.
Interestingly, a study shows that 85 percent of hiring managers are willing to overlook some flaws in a resume when candidates include volunteer work on the resume. (Delloite)
4. Developing your Soft Skills
Volunteering can help you develop your soft skills. as you would often be working with other people or as a team. Such a less tense, semi-formal environment can have huge benefits to your interpersonal skills. A study conducted by Deloitte found that 92 percent believe that volunteering helps build leadership skills, 85 percent communication skills, 88 percent develop strong character, etc leadership…Soft skills are a crucial requirement in getting employed in today’s workplace.
5. Positive Contribution To Society
There is a sense of personal satisfaction when you volunteer your skills to help others and contribute to the advancement of society. It is one of those thing you really cannot put a price tag on. There are people in need and some organizations are dedicated to meeting those needs, volunteering to help those organizations with your tech skills is humanitarian.
How To Volunteer Your Tech or IT Skill
There are over 1.8 million Not-for-Profit organizations in the US alone, while this is a huge list, not all of them may be suitable for you or be likely impactful to your career. If your goal is to use volunteering to gain some industry experience, you will need to be more specific and intentional with your choices, you will first need to identify those skills you want to develop (e.g. data analysis, networking, web development, etc.) and then direct your effort to projects/organizations that can afford you such opportunities. The following are some useful suggestions;
1. Research Local Community Volunteering Opportunities
Depending on your location, there are usually some community-based, Not-for-Profit organizations that are actively looking for people to volunteer their skills, there are lots of these in-person volunteering opportunities. Look out for such vacancies and volunteer help. It may be the community center, youth center, local church or mosque, local outreach, disaster relief, etc. There are always some technical aspects that will need your tech skills.
2. Make a Proactive offer of your Skills
Reach out to organizations to proactively volunteer your skills, not every volunteering opportunity is advertised or even identified. Make professional suggestions on how to improve a system or address a challenge. It may be a badly designed web solution at a local business, poor internet configuration at your favorite coffeehouse, or a well-organized corporate environment. Fixing a problem in such a way can be very impactful and create career-changing opportunities.
3. Attending IT or IT Meetups/Seminars/Events:
IT or Tech meetup is one of the best networking opportunities to meet people who share your interests. Meetups are excellent ways to connect with people and organizations who are looking for tech volunteer opportunities. It is easier to get connected with major corporations through such meetups than with cold calls. Many professionals will be willing to share their insight at such events and avail you of volunteering opportunities.
4. Make use of Online Platforms
Make use of online platforms to search for volunteering opportunities. Statistics show that 67 percent of people found volunteering opportunities in recent years. It is relatively easy to get some IT or tech volunteering roles using online platforms.
Top Online Tech Volunteering Platforms
Online volunteering is becoming one of the best ways people find volunteering opportunities. Platforms like the ones listed below are a treasure trove for those who are looking for volunteering opportunities. The opportunities here are many and the commitment requirements are varied. Search for specific job descriptions and requirements that meet your needs and skill set.
Catchafire is an online, volunteer-matching platform that matches a volunteer with organizations to help complete the projects most critical for the organization’s success. There is a major section dedicated to volunteers with software and IT skills. You have the opportunity to work on both short and long-term capacity-building projects.
Job postings/projects range from small businesses to large co-operations-typically lasting a couple of weeks. There are a lot of jobs to test your skill level. https://www.catchafire.org/volunteer/software-it/
VolunteerMatch is the largest non-profit volunteer service platform. It has over 1.3 million visitors monthly. VolunteerMatch offers both Virtual and in-person volunteering opportunities. You have the opportunity to access a large pool of volunteer opportunities. You may find an in-person opportunity close to you(if that is your interest) when you use the location option.
TechSoup is a Platform that offers technical help to charities and foundations that need expert assistance. As a TechSoup Volunteer, you offer free online or in-person service at events about tech for the common good. It is particularly suitable for those who love to network with other professionals and facilitate discussions on the use of nonprofit technologies. https://www.techsoup.org/joining-techsoup/become-a-volunteer
Datakind is a volunteer platform designed for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence AI. If Data Science and AI are your skill set, you will find lots of opportunities here. You will be able to help organizations apply their data to predictive analytics, machine learning algorithms, and AI. You will get to work in teams with other data scientists.
RemoteHub is a platform that helps you search for Tech projects that suit your skillset and then volunteer to help out. It is a bit different from other volunteering platforms in that you can offer your service for a fee. More like a freelance platform with a large section dedicated to volunteering. You can also post your projects for free and get some volunteers for collaborative work.
Technology Volunteers is a platform that links people who want to use their tech skills for the good of others with organizations that need their help. It focuses on charities and not-for-profit organizations. The company behind Technology Volunteers is evriCloud, which is for teams to do collaborative work
DemocracyLab is another place for volunteering your tech skills. It has some collaborative partnerships with some big tech such as Amazon, Avast, Google, etc. DemocracyLab goal is to connect skilled volunteers and socially responsible companies.
Volunteering your tech or IT skills is an excellent way for you to improve on skills while at the same time contributing meaningfully to society, it helps you build networking opportunities, a better resume, and help you improve your interpersonal skills. It can serve to bridge the gap between your knowledge base and practical experience. Volunteering opportunities exist in person as well as on various online platforms like Catchafire, Demcracylab, Remotehub, Datakind, Technology Volunteer, etc. Explore the opportunities that help enhance your tech skills.