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Out Of Work: Give A Little, Get A Lot Back

Volunteering, an activity sometimes wrongly thought of as strictly belonging solidly within the sphere of retirees, has come around again to a national stage—and thankfully, has now been cast in a more positive light than ever.

President Obama’s efforts to promote Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an official national day of service, especially, has managed to bring making a commitment to your community an activity that’s officially back into vogue.

And the endeavor doesn’t just take the traditional forms you’re probably thinking of, either.

Not sure if you have the experience or qualifications to volunteer at a battered women’s shelter or a suicide hotline? Don’t sweat it. There are a plethora of organizations in need of your support—no matter what your expertise--try VolunteerMatch.org.

Especially if you’ve recently faced a layoff or cutback at your job, there’s a lot you can do at the executive level in the realm of volunteering that will help others while (as a bonus), simultaneously serving as a resume-builder in the meantime. Career experts agree that it’s acceptable—even desirable—to underscore such experience on your resume, even if it’s to makes sure you don’t have any “dead space” in between jobs.

· Consider serving on a board

Professionals such as certified public accountants, for example, frequently choose to volunteer to serve on the boards of non-profits to offer their advice and financial counsel. Whether or not you have a full-time job, lending your time to serve on a board benefits both yourself and the organization. (Just make sure you have the time the position will require—board member terms can run anywhere from two to five years.) An added bonus is the networking opportunities volunteering in such a capacity brings. While you might not necessarily be thinking about the possibilities for a career move, the perfect opportunity might end up materializing right under your nose.

· Let your skill set guide your activity

Recently let go from a job in publishing, for example? Choose to work with programs that can put your abilities to good use. The nonprofit organization 826NYC, for example, is a group with several U.S. locations committed to supporting grade-school students with their writing skills—and are constantly looking for writers and editors to donate their time.

· Try something new

Always wanted to work with senior citizens but never got a chance to? Now’s your time. Programs all over the nation (www.dontalmostgive.org has a section devoted to senior citizen volunteering), are continually looking for volunteers to visit homebound seniors, deliver hot meals on foot, or just make a phone call to a lonely senior citizen whose mobility is limited.

Whatever you choose, keep in mind—it’s likely you’ll end up getting back more than you give. And that’s not just limited to a line on your resume.

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Stephanie R. Myers is a staff writer for Vault.com. She possesses a bachelor’s of journalism from the University of Texas and resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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