In responding to email requests from both aspiring and practicing IT professionals, I’m often reminded that when paid work isn’t available — or perhaps not providing the kind of skills and knowledge development or intellectual challenge that some so earnestly seek out — there’s always the volunteer option. This is an arena where organizations and individuals are grateful for any help they can get, and where giving of your time and energy can pay handsome dividends. Plus, you may be able to try out various technical areas, platforms, tools, or problem-solving not open to you in the workaday or job-search worlds you otherwise inhabit.And in fact, volunteer opportunities are endless and incredibly varied. Can’t find an organization that needs IT people? Think about contacting your local community library to offer basic computing literacy skills classes to seniors, or to those who speak English as a second language. There’s always demand for useful basic information among those trying to develop foundation computing skills and knowledge, if nothing else presents itself to you.
On the other hand, consider these venues when looking for volunteer work with an IT flavor:
1. United We Serve (Corporation for National and Community Service)
2. Local Goodwill stores and locations handle e-waste, and refurbish used computing equipment of all kinds (link to national Goodwill Volunteer page)
3. VolunteerMatch: a nationwide clearing house for volunteer work, searchable by location and keywords
4. Idealist Volunteer Opportunities: an organization that brings those in need of help together with those willing to provide same
If you’re willing to devote some time and elbow grease to searching the Web for IT-related volunteer work, you’re sure to find numerous options from which to choose. For example, by searching Simply Hired for “volunteer” and “Austin, TX” I was able to find several hundred positions, of which over a dozen had a distinct IT flavor, including Volunteer Internet Trainer and Public Computer Support Volunteer (Austin Public Library), and editorial and multimedia internship (Latinitas Magazine), e-mail coordinator (local charities), culture & arts volunteer (City of Austin), library worker (Austin Public Library, Austin Independent School District), and more.
If you’ve got the inclination, and some time and energy to go with it, think about putting your IT skills to work — or developing new ones — as a volunteer. It will not only help your local community, it will also help your personal and professional development!