owitlgevent1If you’ve been out of the workplace for a few years or more, you may well be wondering how any potential employer will consider an application from you with such a gaping hole in your CV.  

Not only will you be missing essential skills that you would normally have acquired through the process of continuing professional development, but many employers will doubt your ability to be “on the ball”, and respond to work situations with the same speed and efficiency that you did before you embarked on your career break.

Obviously one of the simplest ways of addressing the skill shortage is to enrol on a suitable training course, in your field of work.  Getting up to speed with the necessary “technical” skills required for your job, will undoubtedly open up a few more doors – but the big snag here is cost.  Since many of these courses are run with professional organizations in mind, they can be very expensive, charging equally “professional” fees. Generally speaking, they don’t take into consideration the needs of applicants who have not had an income for several years.

If cost is a barrier to you, you should take a serious look at the Internet and what it has to offer.  Careful browsing will reveal on-line tutorials on a wide range of subjects, some free, others charging a nominal enrolment fee.  Clearly these courses, many of which include training in business software, won’t carry the same weight as many of the professional alternatives available, but the key thing to remember here is the acquisition of skills.  What is more important - the ability to wave a piece of paper saying you have passed an accredited course, or the ability to prove that you know what you are talking about?

owitlgevent2Clearly the best way to demonstrate your newly acquired skills is to apply them in a work situation.  Without a job, this is not as easy as it sounds!  Or is it?  You’ll be surprised how many business associations and non-profit organizations are crying out for volunteers to help them in their work.  There are numerous openings for those wishing to get involved in event organization and community relations, as well as those looking to help out with secretarial duties (someone has to take the minutes of the executive committee meetings) and membership administration.

As you move through the ranks, you will see yet more opportunities for communications and marketing specialists, whose role it is to promote the organization, using the same media tools as those in much larger commercial businesses.  Financial and legal specialists may also be required to help fulfil the administrative obligations of these organizations.

Many of these organizations will also have an executive committee that meets regularly to discuss strategic issues within the organization, planning future direction, etc.  Whilst some of these issues are on a much smaller scale than those in the “real workplace”, the technical skills required to address them are essentially the same.  

Violette Ruppanner, President of the Organization of Women in International Trade – Lake Geneva (OWIT Lake Geneva), a non-profit networking organization whose goal is to promote the advancement of women in business and international affairs and provide opportunities for networking and professional development, says,

“Learning to work with other people after a long period out of work can be quite a daunting prospect for many professional women.  At OWIT Lake Geneva, we give volunteers the opportunity to put their management and other skills into practice in a low stress and friendly, but nevertheless professional environment.”

She continues, “ However, volunteering can be very demanding, and requires a commitment to fulfil the responsibility that one has signed up for, and to see projects through to their completion.   Volunteers need to have good communication skills, especially when much of the work is carried out remotely as many of us have full-time jobs.  Initiative is essential too – volunteer associations like ours don’t always have the same level of support or funding as larger organizations, so volunteers will often need to think a little more creatively to get a job done.”

owitlgevent3Volunteering for a business organization like OWIT Lake Geneva also has many other benefits, not the least of which is the ability to network with like-minded individuals.  Seminars and workshops feature regularly in their programme of events, providing job seekers with the opportunity to meet professionals already working in their business sector. These professionals can often advise on the best route to take when seeking employment and, in many cases, will make the introductions necessary to open a few doors on the way.

It is important to remember, however, that organizations, such as OWIT Lake Geneva, have been set up primarily to help professionals already working in business.  Whilst they are happy to provide networking opportunities for those who are currently unemployed, they do, nevertheless, insist that a certain “etiquette” is observed at their functions.  Attendees are reminded that membership is as much about giving as taking, and that they shouldn’t use these events purely as a means for acquiring useful contacts in their job search.

Violette concludes, “At OWIT Lake Geneva, we are more than happy to provide letters of reference for those volunteers who have demonstrated a commitment to the organization and a high quality of work, completed within the appropriate deadlines. Once a volunteer has been with us for a minimum of three months, we may also consider them for an executive position, which can carry considerably more weight with future employers.”

For further information on volunteering at OWIT Lake Geneva:

Karen Pink,
Volunteer Director
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To view a comprehensive list of over 50 business networking organizations in the Lake Geneva region, visit: