For job seekers, volunteering can be a very smart use of time: it can help you gain skills, help fill gaps in a resume if you're unemployed for a long time, and (perhaps most important) help you expand your professional network.
"Volunteering, sometimes referred to as 'adult interning,' is a great way for someone to hone specialized skills and be in the right place at the right time when a position comes available," says Debra Yergen, the author of "Creating Job Security Resource Guide."
(For more tips, read "Volunteer for Your Career.")
Volunteering to work at a conference related to your industry combines all three benefits: often, volunteers gain free access to some workshops and events–and, of course, networking opportunities abound.
Consider the upcoming SXSW (South by Southwest) Conferences and Festivals. People who attend the Music and Media Conference, the Film Conference and Festival, and the Interactive Festival are there to show off new work and new technological innovations (and to have a good time), but they're also there to network.
Are you attending SXSW, either as a volunteer or a registrant? First off, be sure to visit the SXSW Hiring Hub. Presented in conjunction with Monster.com, the Hiring Hub will connect talented job seekers with organizations at SXSW.
Second, be sure to make a networking plan. Remember, when it comes to networking, quality definitely trumps quantity. Handing out your business card to everyone you meet is probably less beneficial than getting a couple minutes of conversation with a few key individuals.
Here are a few more tips: