by Meade Peers McCoy
Why are you here?
We are all here for different reasons, with different goals. Some of us are here to acquire the new skills necessary for a career change or promotion. Some of us are here to learn the vernacular or vocabulary of an industry we are already working in. Some of us are here as a step on a pathway to further education. Some of us are here to improve our credentials and add letters to the end of our names. What we have in common is that we are all here to learn.
Something else a lot of us have in common is the desire to break into a new industry, or improve our resumes for promotion. This can prove easier said than done; career changer and people coming back to the workplace after a prolonged absence often have a hard time braking into the training and development field. Gaining experience, and adding to your resume, can help open these doors.
To gain experience or add to our resumes we need more than just academic experience and credentials-we need real world experience. Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. To excel in our new careers, we need to get our hands dirty so to speak; and real-world experience can be invaluable, both in getting in the door and later as we put what we learned in school to work on the job. Giving us the opportunity to try out things we know in theory, and practice the skills we have learned in the classroom. Giving us confidence in our skills and something tangible to add to our resumes.
One of the ways of gaining real-world experience, getting our hands dirty, is to volunteer our skills. There are numerous volunteer opportunities in different areas of our industry. Volunteering can be a great learning experience and a resume builder; it can also be a fantastic way to make local contacts (remember every encounter is a potential networking moment). Volunteer opportunities come in many shapes and sizes; local professional organizations often provide T&D and HPI services to nonprofit organizations. In Chicagoland CCASTD works on projects both small and large, providing change management, organizational development, instructional design, and training support. Volunteers of all experience levels work on these projects, and students are encouraged to come and try out their new knowledge and skills. Volunteering can also be helpful to people already in the industry, providing you a space to practice and improve your skills in a safe environment. Volunteering can also be a wonderful networking opportunity, working with other people in T&D and local business leaders. Additionally many volunteer opportunities require limited time investment on a week-to-week bases, so even if you have a full time job you can still help out and gain some valuable experience.
If there are no professional organizations in your immediate area then you can look for volunteer opportunities in other places. Small nonprofits, churches, and community centers are all good places to start.