If you’re interested in influencing a life, there are countless organizations that can help, from groups where you can donate an hour of your time to groups that will support you in building long-term relationships. Some programs will have to wait until we’re free to socialize in person again, but some operate virtually and offer a great way to help from home. The following are one-time mentoring opportunities.
Here are long-term mentoring opportunities.
DreamWakers connects classrooms to career role models by way of video chat because “students can’t be what they can’t see.” Eighty-eight percent of students who have participated had never met someone in the respective speakers’ professions. Working with fourth- through twelfth-grade classrooms, DreamWakers serves U.S. schools in which at least 50 percent of the student body is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Speaking of which, you can be a guest speaker during your lunch. Founders Monica Gray Logothetis and Annie Medaglia loved volunteering in classrooms when they were in college, but they didn’t have the same flexibility when they started working. When they noticed that their peers had the same problem, they created this way to volunteer during lunch to bring much-needed resources and role models to schools.
The transition from military to civilian life can be frustrating. After growing within the military and having significant responsibility, veterans are faced with the need to start over when they get out. Specifically, they have to figure out how to find opportunities and present themselves within the civilian system, which their peers have already been doing for years. To facilitate the process, Veterati offers volunteers a chance to provide veterans with valuable career mentoring. Mentors sign up online (it takes a couple of minutes) and note areas of expertise and a specific time and date to mentor (a minimum of an hour). Veterans, active military and spouses browse through mentors and schedule a coaching session through the Veterati platform, and Veterati connects the call.
American Corporate Partners’ AdvisorNet is an online forum where veterans and spouses of active-duty military can seek career advice for civilian jobs. Spouses are included because they often move every few years to support their partners and therefore don’t have a strong network to rely on. Questions range from how to improve a résumé to the best way to get in the door for an IT job to how to negotiate a pay raise. Tens of thousands of veterans post questions on the forum, and after registering as an adviser, you can search through questions and provide suggestions in your area of expertise. Veterans can also search adviser profiles to find those who have experience in areas where they need help. American Corporate Partners says there’s a growing need to help transitioning veterans, given the high number of troops transitioning to civilian life. Participate by accessing the Advisor-Net section of American Corporate Partners’ website.
Sarah McAnulty began Skype a Scientist when she was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut because of her concern that the political divisiveness in the United States was leading to a mistrust of science. Skype a Scientist pairs volunteer scientists with classrooms around the world to make science accessible and fun through personal connections. The nonprofit also focuses on helping students see the diversity in science.
One scientist volunteer fondly recalled the time when she was Skyping with a class and the teacher reminded students that coding isn’t just for boys. “It’s true,” the volunteer said. “I code every day, and I’m a girl!” Two of the girls in the back of the room threw up their hands and jumped out of their seats with huge smiles.
More than fifteen thousand scientists from around the world have participated in the program, along with more than forty-eight thousand student groups from seventy five countries. Volunteers sign up online to provide classroom Q&A sessions via Skype, Zoom or other platforms.
Most workforce development programs are looking for volunteers to help with mock interviews, career advice and résumé help and can be found online. For example, in my area I’d search for “Philadelphia workforce development nonprofit.” You can also find mentoring organizations through specific searches like “mentoring women in Philadelphia.”