How Volunteering Helped Me Build My Social Media Career + 5 Tips for You

Team of Volunteers photo by Robert Bassam

We all know the importance of internships when it comes to getting a heel in the door of the fashion communication industry – whether you dream of being a publicist, social media strategist, marketing maven or event production master.  For those of us who are either no longer in school, unable or unwilling to accept unpaid internship after unpaid internship, there is another way to get experience: volunteering.

I frequently volunteer for museums, film festivals, industry conferences and the performance arts.  I can’t stress enough the positive impact that volunteering around my community has had on my career.

I’ve found mentors, made new friends, received job offers, and gained meaningful, relevant industry experience through volunteering. Plus I get the added benefit of knowing I am giving back to my community.

Volunteering is opportunity to give back through creative ways other than through financial support. It has nourished my customer service, organization, time-management, PR skills and more, while also feeding my passion for the arts. I am a believer in volunteering for an organization that speaks to your passions or a cause that touches your soul. When you care about something you are dedicated to, that dedication can open doors.

Pull up a seat for a quick story.

I began volunteering as a preteen with my family through our church. From there it spiraled to my mom’s work at a charter school, PRSSA philanthropy hours at local nonprofits including; Ballet West, and ACLU of Utah — which grew into a PR internship. Despite being a local, I didn’t volunteer for the Sundance Film Festival until January 2013 where I was placed in their press office. It wasn’t a glamorous role, but I interacted with press and got to see amazing films.

I used my prior volunteer experience to seek out opportunities when I relocated to San Diego in the spring of 2013. I quickly got involved with the San Diego Film Festival and somehow managed to snag an internship for PR Couture. I relocated, again, this time to Los Angeles to accept a 4-month role with the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  After the role wrapped I headed back to San Diego, and through volunteer connections, I got involved doing social media for Ad 2 San Diego & American Marketing Association, San Diego.

Whew! Now as a Social Media Consultant, a lot of my clients are referred to me through connections I’ve made volunteering.

Below I break down my tips for getting involved in your community and how it can lead to new opportunities.

Get involved with industry events

Can’t afford the ticket to an industry event, conference, festival or even concert? Look into volunteering for the event. There’s everything from registration, bag stuffing, and room hosts for larger events or conferences. Perks usually include attending the event in some capacity.

Volunteer to give and to learn

Sign up to volunteer roles or descriptions outside your comfort zone. Look for roles and opportunities that will add to your skillset and expand the knowledge you already have. Ask organization staff how you can get more involved in a specific area. From event logistics, sponsors, donors, security, fundraising and more, there’s a lot of areas to explore.

Find a local fit

Short-term volunteering is great for events, but there are tons of ways to get involved on an ongoing basis with organizations close to home. After all, your budget might be tight but you have the time. A few hours a month can make a lot of difference to an organization. Pick one or more organization, event, or cause you are passionate about and get involved, give back to your community. Need help selecting the right organization? Use VolunteerMatch.

Know your brand & perfect your elevator pitch  

From the staff behind the event to other volunteers, you’ll be meeting a lot of new people, and first impressions count. Know your career goals, your skills, and why you’re volunteering as you introduce yourself to others. Don’t forget to ask them questions!

Let your ambition shine

Show up on time, do what is requested, and pitch yourself. Make connections with organization staff and regular volunteers. These relationships can turn into mentorships, co-workers, friends, and beyond. Your resources will be willing to help you if you ask.

Volunteering is a lifestyle and one that continuing gives back more than you put in. Happy volunteering!

About Amanda Nelson

Amanda is a creative and vibrant Social Media Consultant with experience managing social media campaigns, developing relationships with bloggers, brand development, creating and curating content. View her digital portfolio and connect on Twitter @mandavision.

Photo Credit: wvs