“I’m Unemployed; Why Would I Volunteer?”

Sometimes the advice we get can initially sound like the person giving it really doesn’t understand the problem.

Take for example the situation where you are out of work and struggling to even get interviews. Your every waking moment is torment; having to put food on the table, a roof over your head, keep up car insurance, water and heating bills, your internet and cell phone minutes. Your favourite part of the day becomes the 2.5 seconds you are awake, groggy and blissfully adjusting to the day and don’t have to deal with anything; your worst moment starts 3 seconds after waking when reality jolts you back into crisis mode and you’re there for the rest of the day. Your unemployment is becoming chronic so you seek help only to have some brainiac suggest you try your hand at volunteering.

Did they even hear you? Don’t they get it? Volunteering? Really?

Now volunteering isn’t the panacea for everyone. However, it is a viable and good option for many if they would allow themselves the luxury of being open to the suggestion. After all, presumably you’re already in discussion with someone, you might as well be open and hear them out before deciding for yourself how best to proceed.

Let’s look at the benefits of volunteering you may not have fully appreciated.

1. Experience. If you’ve been out of work longer than 6 month’s, employers view your work history as stale. Volunteering gives you direct experience that will be something current on your resume. Change your resume heading from, “Work History” to “Experience”, and you have the option of integrating all your volunteer work with your employment experience as a single heading. And do not indicate the position is a volunteer role or unpaid.

2. Establishing a Routine. Now you wake up knowing you’ve got somewhere to go, so just like a job, you’ve got to get up, get dressed, have breakfast and get out the door. Acting the same as your paid work routine mirrors the behaviour you need to re-establish or maintain. It’s healthy for you mind.

3. Self-esteem Boosting. Volunteering will make you feel appreciated and valued, and that beats sitting at home moping and concentrating every waking second on your own troubles. Re-building your mental toughness and self-image is easier when someone tells you how much they look forward to receiving your help. And by filling in your gap on a resume, you’ll feel better too when you present it to the world happy to talk about your volunteering instead of loathing it when the gap is questioned.

4. Trying Something New. If you can no longer perform the same job you’ve done in the past due to age, physical or mental limitations, lacking the tools and equipment etc., volunteering is a great way to try out something you might find interesting but are unsure of. If it works out, great! If it doesn’t, good thing you don’t invest a lot of time job searching for a job you thought you might want to do but would later come to hate or just can’t do.

5. Giving Back. Just as volunteering sounds odd when you need money, giving back seems odd at a time when you just want to take; as in take a job, take some pay, take some benefits. Giving to your community with your time will help others, and may put your unemployment in perspective. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a shelter for the homeless and you’ll realize there are many people far worse off than you. And you’ll value this new perspective long after you are employed and working.

6. References. Absolutely! If you are pitching in doing some volunteer work, whoever you report to can comment on your reliability, attendance, enthusiasm, attitude, direct job skills, interpersonal skills, dependability, work ethic, teamwork, conflict resolution, problem-solving and more. The same skills an employer requires can be applied in a volunteer role, so of course the Volunteer Co-ordinator can attest to your application of the same skills.

7. A Job! Not always of course, but sometimes all the volunteer hours you put in are really one long job interview. You have to be watched as a volunteer, because the place you are volunteering at has a responsibility to their clientele. But that observation can pay off if an opening for a job comes up and you’ve been there volunteering and know the organization and would be an excellent fit. You’ll usually know of openings before the general public, and if hired, that need of the employer’s never makes it to a job board.

8. A Criminal Reference Check. Yes this is a benefit so wrap your head around it. If you have a clean record, you’ll have written proof of it to stick on your resume and submit to an employer when job searching as one more thing that makes you an attractive hire. If you do have a record, you’ll know exactly what comes up, and the conversation you have with a volunteer organization is good practice for how to present this at a job interview.

Volunteering a few hours a week means there is plenty of time for job searching at the same time. Consider the above benefits. And remember too that there are often free training opportunities when you volunteer that the organization pays for, and you can apply to your resume.

Volunteering; worth considering. 

Written By Kelly Mitchell

“I’m Unemployed; Why Would I Volunteer?” was originally published @ myjobadvice and has been syndicated with permission.

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