Mary Fernandez’s career really took off after she applied what she learned during her time as a weekend volunteer at a community medical facility.

Meet Mary Fernandez

Mary Fernandez is a 24-year-old who holds an associate’s degree from Center Community College in general studies. Her mother, Rita, is a long-term employee in the traffic department of Platt & Company.

Three years ago, Rita referred Mary to Platt’s HR manager for an administrative assistant position, which Mary has held ever since. While attending Center Community College, Mary thought about getting a certificate in medical records and billing in order to work in healthcare. Ultimately, she got a job at Platt instead.

After three years at Platt, Mary began to think about the next step in her career. The idea of medical records and billing training resurfaced, and she learned that with her associate’s degree it will take only a year of night classes to earn her certificate. So, she met with Center Community College and enrolled in their certificate program.

An Opportunity to Give Back to the Community

One evening, Mary was speaking with David, her career services advisor, about how she could transition into a medical records position. Because she was working full-time at Platt and attending classes a few evenings a week, it was not practical for her to serve an internship.

David suggested that she consider volunteering at a healthcare facility on Saturdays. “Volunteering is a terrific way to gain experience, to give back to the community, and to build an effective network,” explained David. “All of which can positively impact your job search and career.” Mary thought this was a great idea.

She reached out to local medical, dental, chiropractic and similar healthcare practices to volunteer. After meeting with several facilities, she was offered a volunteer position at ABC Family Medical Associates. ABC is has a large regional practice and serves urgent care needs on the weekends.

Why Volunteering Makes Good Career Sense

Here are three key benefits gained through volunteering:

1. Gaining Experience.

Employers are looking for candidates who possess specific skills and knowledge. Volunteering is one way to acquire that knowledge and specific skill set.

Mary greatly enhanced her job search credentials when she put her schooling to work. Compared to other candidates with the same educational credentials as Mary, her volunteer experience gave her a decided advantage when she began to apply for positions. Mary could offer relevant examples to prospective employers of how she handled a busy office situation, or how she researched a billing discrepancy.

2. Giving Back.

Employers evaluate candidates on more than just technical competence. Volunteering tells employers Mary goes the extra mile, is community- and others-oriented, and possesses a strong work ethic. Mary was able to discuss how she balanced school, her current employment, and her volunteer work, demonstrating her ability to manage a schedule and prioritize time.

3. Building an Effective Network.

Mary began adding doctors, nurses, and other professionals at ABC Family Medical Associates to her network, along with the outside professionals who interacted with her at ABC. After several months, her supervisors at ABC were able provide her with a letter of recommendation based on their on-the-job experience with her.

By doing an excellent job volunteering, she caught the attention of the practice manager, who eventually offered her employment in the records department upon her certification. The professionals at ABC also let her know of other openings they were aware of at area practices.

In addition, the network connections Mary made at ABC provided her with timely advice and career assistance. Mary saw the wisdom of continuing to develop those relationships.

Where is Mary Today?

Now 28, Mary is head of the medical records and billing department for Center County Urgent Care. After she obtained her medical records and billing certificate a few years ago, she was hired by ABC Family Medical, who offered her a position after four months of volunteering.

While at ABC Family Medical, she caught the attention of Dr. Sunil Puvvada and Dr. Betsy Alcorn. Eighteen months ago, Drs. Puvvada and Alcorn started Center County Urgent Care and asked Mary to join them. She has a very bright future.

As a result of Mary’s volunteering she was able to transition to a new field and the contacts she made have helped advance her career.

Learn more about this and other highly effective career development strategies in my book, “Get a Better Job Faster” on