Resumes continue to take a beating even after the recession has ended. It is common for IT professionals to start their own consulting firms to mask lapses in employment and to put the best face on a series of short-term projects. It’s a necessary survival skill to show that you’ve kept your experience up-to-date in the quickly changing world of information technology.
In answer to the question, “How do I keep my skills updated while I’m unemployed?” I recommend that you pursue open source and cloud computing as your newest technologies. With a willingness to work hard and produce tangible results, there are abundant opportunities to work as a non-profit volunteer. Learn how cloud computing can benefit organizations on tight budgets by helping non-profits shift to managed services for very practical financial reasons. Also, learn about open source technologies that can work with legacy systems to create new and expanded functionality at little or no cost to the organization.
Be upfront that you worked as a volunteer and create statements that clearly illustrate the qualitative and quantitative results that your efforts produced. Concise statements, such as the examples below, describe what you did and how it delivered value.
- Designed and built financial performance model, including Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure profitability of individual concerts, the annual festival, and the organization as a whole.
- Built an interactive e-commerce site to raise money for hurricane relief efforts, donating $500K to the Red Cross.
- Developed a high-performance method to enable engineers to visualize and analyze data in a single view, resolving the first steps toward moving into a cloud environment.
- Thoroughly researched requirements, and then designed and developed a data management system to drastically improve methods to match donors with non-profit organizations utilizing open source solutions.
Pro bono work is a win-win situation. You get experience with noteworthy organizations and those organizations gain technical expertise. Each partner benefits when a mutual commitment is made to achieve organizational goals with projects delivered to scope, on-time, and within the limited budgets that are typical of non-profit organizations. The work demands the same commitment to meet or exceed organizational expectations as does paid work, and the experience is especially valuable in this age of lean IT.
Organizations exist specifically to connect people with projects; one I highly recommend is Taproot Foundation (http://www.taprootfoundation.org). They have a history of matching skilled volunteers with valuable projects. When you make an effort to connect with an organization that is a good match for your skill set, the rewards are tangible and the experience is memorable.
Take time to consider how and what you can contribute to a good cause. Get connected with organizations that need your expertise, contribute your time and efforts to worthwhile programs, and stay updated on the latest technologies by designing, developing, and implementing projects that will make you proud.