Some people are out pursuing careers while others are out looking for jobs. Why would volunteering; essentially doing the work without getting paid for it, be in anyone’s best interests who is currently out of work?
After all, it won’t help pay the bills.
Giving others the benefit of your time through volunteering, (working without financial payment for your services) is – as those who volunteer will tell you – tremendously rewarding. You do benefit from giving of yourself, just not in the traditional sense of receiving financial compensation. However, if you scoff at the idea of working for nothing, you’ll be foolish to turn a blind eye to volunteering as it will strengthen your future employment applications. There are good solid reasons why employers like seeing volunteer positions on a resume and make no mistake; the best of employers see value in people who give of themselves in helping others.
So let’s look at volunteering in a rather odd way; a selfish way. What’s in it for you? This is a legitimate question; a good question! After all, when you’re out of work and need a job to pay the bills it does sound counter productive to just give away your time for nothing and as a result have even less time to hunt down work that pays.
Well for starters, volunteering keeps you connected to people. Whether you’re volunteering your time in a warehouse packaging food hampers or helping to build a home in your community for a family in need, you’re going to interact with people. If you have good people skills already, you’ll continue to develop and nurture those skills. If you aren’t really comfortable dealing with others in the first place, you’ll be in a position to start working on your interpersonal skills and ward off feelings of anxiety that come from a lack of interaction with others. It doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly go on to a career as a charismatic public speaker, but as most jobs do require some degree of social interaction; ie. the interview process for example, volunteering brings you into contact with others in a non-threatening way.
Guess what? You’re going to feel better about yourself too. Yep, you can get pretty down on yourself and Life in general when you’re out of work and keep getting rejected by employers. All those questions like, “What’s wrong with me?”, “Why can’t I get a job?” can lead to feelings of low self-worth leading to anxiety and ultimately depression.
When you volunteer, you’re wanted! People look forward to seeing you, they appreciate your skills and efforts. You start feeling connected to a cause, connected to others, welcomed and with this your self-esteem gets a boost. You’ll also find you’re picking up some skills from others, staying up-to-date with best practices and no matter what you are actually doing, you’re developing some good work habits that employers value. It’s true! You’ve got a schedule you’re expected to meet, responsibilities that you’re counted on to fulfill, and of course it’s hoped you’ll be punctual and accountable for your time. Make no mistake, it is volunteering but its’ volunteer work.
Another benefit is the good references you may be building up; references you could leverage and use to your own advantage when applying to paying jobs. References from the place you volunteer can speak to your cooperative attitude, your dependability, your work ethic and your willingness to learn. If one of your problems is out-of-date references or none whatsoever, this is a very good way to establish some current ones. Pass by on volunteering your time and how else are you going to get some references? Please don’t get friends to lie for you and pretend to be past employers – using friends for your own gain says much about your character if you do.
It’s not so unusual to find that paid employment arises out of volunteer experiences. Some organizations make a habit of hiring their volunteers when the opportunities arise. In this sense your volunteer placement is really one very long on-the-job interview. It could be that while the organization you volunteer with doesn’t have openings to hire itself, but those you volunteer alongside recognize your positives and pass your name on to their own employers where they work and tell you about openings you should apply to. Hey it does happen; more than you think!
Now lest you think that you’ll have no time to look for a paying job, I’m not advocating that you drop your job search and spend 35 hours a week donating your time. No, you can balance your time between job searching and volunteering – say one morning a week or twice at most. Volunteer organizations understand the need for money and most would pay you if they could. So letting them know you are really looking for paid employment but would like to donate something of yourself while you have some time is something they’ll understand.
Finally, if you haven’t worked in a long time – maybe never – the whole job search thing can be intimidating and downright scary. Volunteer your time and you’ll build some self-confidence and just feel good about yourself. This could be a key part in your long-term plan to gain employment for which you’re just not ready at the moment.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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