Volunteers can use contacts to 'turn pro'


Dear Joyce: I am a 52-year-old female with unique academic (includes a doctorate) and professional credentials. I am seeking employment after having been in business for myself for 15 years, six of which were dedicated to volunteer work as an advocate.

After working 12 to 14 hours a day as a volunteer, I now find I should like to capitalize on my experience, becoming a paid advocate, legislative aide or socially conscious advocate employee.

I am two-thirds through completing a bachelor's degree in political science, a discipline quite different than the one in which I hold a doctorate. I plan to remain in my professional discipline, using the political science study as facilitating knowledge. Do you know of any type of registry where a professional can register to be considered for gainful employment?

Also, may I suggest you devote more exposure to the female, 40-something plus who because of widowhood, divorce or other factors, finds herself in competition with younger women who seem to have an edge on cornering jobs in the marketplace. C.J.F.

Cutting to the nitty-gritty: No, I don't know of a registry for volunteers seeking to turn professionals. Yours is a classic case of the need to network and make yourself geographically desirable. Decide where you want to live, arrange job-hunting trips and use every contact you made as a volunteer to move into a paid position in a political organization, advocacy group or trade association.

Just as you mastered information for your educational credentials, credentials, now it's time for you to study job search dynamics.

"All your past experience as a volunteer should be combed, broken into skills and special knowledge, and translated into terms that will make sense to anyone interviewing you in your desired workplace," advise Gerri Bloomberg and Margaret Holden in a new book available next month, "The Women's Job Search Handbook," (Williamson Publishing, Church Hill Road, Charlotte, Vt. 05445; (800) 234-8791; $15 by mail).

To volunteers who cringe from asking money for what they've been giving for free, don't. Think of college stars moving on to play pro ball. Just tell your paid colleagues, "I think it's time I turned pro. Which organizations do you think might benefit from the experience I've polished on this job? Would you be willing to make a call for me?" Even if you're offered a paid spot with your current volunteer group, the shift in status may not be comfortable. I'd go elsewhere, but use my current contacts to get there.

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