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Boost Morale & Fill Time by Volunteering

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One of the hardest things about unemployment is filling up the hours of the day. It doesn’t matter how focused or industrious you are about finding a job, you can only send so many tailored resumes, so many masterfully crafted cover letters, and call so many offices before you get emotionally and physically drained. That’s why I recommend filling up the other hours of the day by volunteering with an organization you believe in.

This article is part of Bargaineering Career Week 2009, a week-long series focused on your career – how to find a job, how to tailor your resume, how to find the job opportunities and how to nail the interview. This article is the third article of day one – career planning.

You don’t have volunteer every single day, just pick one day and donate a few of your hours to a cause you believe in. It only takes a few minutes to enter your your zip code and some causes you want to support into the search box at Serve.gov (which takes you to Allforgood.org). Within minutes you’ll be able to find a volunteer opportunity that fits your schedule.

Still not convinced? Here’s why I think you should donate a few of your hours each week to a local charity:

  • You’ll feel productive. This is probably the most valuable part about volunteering when you’re out of work. After hours of sending resumes that result in few phone calls, you’ll feel very unproductive despite doing so much. By volunteering, you’ll get to work hands-on and see the product of your effort. It’s a big psychological boost.
  • You’ll be doing good. It always feels good to volunteer because you’re helping other people. You’re helping an organization further it’s goal of helping other people. Whatever it is, you’re working towards a good cause and that has to boost your morale.
  • You’ll work with others. This has multiple benefits. First, you’ll be interacting with other people, which takes you out of the very solitary feeling of job hunting. Second, you might meet people who can help you find a job. The other volunteers are usually going to be employed or retired, which means they could even give you leads to openings in their organizations or former organizations.
  • Volunteer organizations usually have employees… and job openings. When I was volunteering at Meals on Wheels, some of the drivers were paid. From what I understand, it wasn’t a lot of money (it was more about reimbursement for the gas and time), but charitable organizations aren’t 100% staffed by volunteers. You could find a little side work or contract work doing specific tasks for them… which beats unemployment.

Ultimately, volunteering is a way to boost morale in an otherwise difficult time. The prospects of finding a job with or through a volunteer organization is pretty low, but it’s there, so you should volunteer because it helps charities that are otherwise struggling and it will make you feel better. That, in turn, will make you a better job seeker and candidate when the opportunity presents itself.

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19 Responses to “Boost Morale & Fill Time by Volunteering”

  1. hoht says:

    I wholeheartedly agree Jim.
    Jobhunting is like studying, it gets tedious and boring. I find volunteering really helps rejuvenate the psyche after a long day of trying to figure out how to implement the Gauss-Jordan method correctly. :D

    • Jim says:

      Exactly, you need something that taxes a different part of the brain or body so that you let the part you’ve been hammering take a rest. If you’re emotionally drained from studying or looking for a job, doing something uplifting can be extremely refreshing.

  2. Chris says:

    Give and you shall receive 7 times fold. If you neeeed a job, do one for free. Sounds good to me but I am not very patient.

  3. Jaye says:

    You may also be able to volunteer in a field that will expand your current skill set. This last summer I was unemployed for 5 months, I volunteered to re-make a website for a local haunted house in exchange for a title (Director of Web Services) and Adobe CS4. I was able to expand my webdesign skills and the haunted house got a new website out of it. And I got free tickets!

  4. Fred says:

    This is a great article and great advice.

    I think another benefit is that prospective employers will appreciate seeing you ‘take action’ for the good of others while you aren’t formally employed.

    I interview candidates for my company. I know that if I asked someone about their work history and they told me “I got laid off, but in the 4 months since I’ve been diligently hunting for a job and I’ve decided to spend a portion of each day volunteering for [xyz] to help others in need”, I would be MAD IMPRESSED.

    A person who volunteers is someone who sees beyond their own circumstances. What employer wouldn’t want that person working for them?

  5. eric says:

    I think volunteering, interning, apprenticing, or any unpaid work within your career field is going to help regardless. You keep your skills fresh while picking up new ones. Time is spent productively and it is often the perfect segue way into a paid position. If anything, it gives you something good to do.

  6. redivelli says:

    One thing to note about volunteering…things can get rough. I volunteer with a feed the homeless group and we have had fights break out amongst some of our patrons. It was exciting to see some UFC without tv, but the men were missing the point of what we were doing. Ministry and food.

    If you struggle for opportunities to volunteer, look through a local high school. I have friends that flip burgers for my high school’s band :)

  7. This is great advice. Forward motion is such a big key in life, and if you’re volunteering, you’re moving forward, even if it isn’t in a career. You’re getting out of the house, meeting and interacting with people, and maybe picking up some valuable tips and contacts.

    In this economy finding a job in most careers is a long term process that requires pacing yourself. Getting out and doing something can be part of that process. Work too hard to find a job and discouragement is assured. Balance is so important.

  8. Carla says:

    I totally agree. Volunteering gets you out of your head and it feels good putting your energy towards someone in need. I think volunteer work is highly underrated.

  9. John Doe says:

    Agree with all above. If nothing else, you can put it down on an activities section of a resume – something to cover the time gap in-between jobs.

  10. Tina Fortune says:

    Great advice. When I divorced and BK’d in 2004, I moved 800 miles away with 3 kids and did just that. I started over and ended up volunteering at the unemployment office before I found a job and less than two years later, a career. Great advice!

  11. At times, actually every time I drive home, I feel like volunteering being a minimum wage car salesman at the BMW dealer. The fact is that many jobs are available, if you want to work for minimum wage and a commission.

    I swear, I am the worst client ever b/c all I do is visit, sit in the cars, smell the new car smell and read the pamplets. It’s about time I volunteer my services at a dealership, b/c that’s what I love to do!

  12. BrianC says:

    I’ve found libraries to be great places to volunteer, especially if you want to work in one. Volunteer experience is definitely a plus on your resume, and you’ll be among the first to hear about new job openings.

  13. BrianC–there’s a nice fringe benefit to working/volunteering in the library as well. Think about all of the information you’ll have access to?

    True you have tremedous information at home on the web, but in the library it’s staring you in the face and it can make you aware of sources you never knew existed.

    Might also be a good place to find other job seekers. Support for the journey never hurts.

    • Jim says:

      Before Google, libraries were your search engine. The one benefit of libraries over Google is that the information is, mostly, curated and trustworthy. Much of the stuff on Google has never been looked at by a human before it was included in their index.

  14. zapeta says:

    Volunteering can help you network which is a huge part of finding a job. You may have some unique skills that can be very helpful to these organization and it feels great to volunteer and give back to those less fortunate.

  15. Shock says:

    I volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America for 8 years as an assistant scoutmaster. It was so beneficial in numerous ways. First, I got to participate in outdoor activities that I would otherwise not have done or even known about. I had more fun on our trips than the boys did. Second, I got to be a mentor to 11-18 young men. It helped me to understand teenagers better. Third, it looks really good on a resume. I got my first job out of college because the recruiter noticed that I was an Eagle scout and a scoutmaster. It was the first thing he mentioned. A couple of weeks later, I had a job!

  16. Ms. Richards says:

    It does work! I volunteered for a not for profit and got a job. Sadly, a major grant ran out and I lost the job, but there are always people you meet that see your work and you can network with…


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