While this past year has been one to forget, with the economy going through one of the most difficult times in a century, we shouldn’t forget those who are less fortunate than we are. Since the economy has hit all of us squarely in the wallet (or purse), you may tempted to cut back on your charitable giving, despite the financial tax benefits. I’m here to say that if that is your plan, consider volunteering some of your time to an organization in your neighborhood.
If you’re out of work, it’s even more important that you try to volunteer in your local neighborhood because it can pay huge emotional and spiritual dividends. You don’t have to volunteer each and every day, just a few hours a week can make an impact towards a cause you believe in.
It Boosts Morale
Searching for a job can be a very emotional exhausting experience. My wife looked for a job for six months before she found one and I saw the roller coaster of emotions she dealt with. You send out resumes day in and day out, hearing back from only a couple, and there’s a feeling like you’re fighting a forest fire with a spray bottle. By volunteering, you get to claim small wins each time you volunteer because you are helping out an organization that desperately needs your support.
Satisfies Social Needs
The job hunt can also be very lonely. There’s very little human contact when you submit resumes for hours at a time, so it’s important to keep your social needs fulfilled by interacting with other volunteers. Volunteers are almost always very kind and inviting, because they know how valuable other volunteers are!
By working with other people, you don’t feel like you’re on an island all by yourself. If you feel open to it you can discuss your frustrations and difficulties with other volunteers. Maybe they’re in the same boat, maybe they’ve gone through it before, it’s like a support group you can learn to lean on as you build relationships with them.
Employers are always looking for gaps in resumes and being able to say that you volunteered when you were out of work sounds better than saying all you did was submit resume and go to job fairs. While I argue that you should job hunt full throttle at first, there will come a time when you won’t be able to fill many hours of the day with resume submissions. When that happens, consider volunteering and it gives you something positive to say during your time off.
Anytime you can get out and meet new people, you increase the chances that you’ll find a job through networking. While I wouldn’t expect it to happen, you never know who you will meet. Perhaps you meet someone who has a friend who works at the company you’ve had your eye on? Maybe someone is married to an HR generalist at a company in your industry? By getting out of your house, or the library, you meet more people and increase the chances you’ll find a job through word of mouth.
They Might Hire You!
Most organizations have paid staff to perform some of the more arduous tasks or to fill in when the volunteer ranks are looking thin. Meals on Wheels occasionally hired paid drivers to drive certain routes when there were fewer volunteers. If you have specific and specialized skills the organization is looking for, you might find yourself a part-time job to help make ends meet.
In the end, the big value in volunteering is in boosting your morale and filling up hours in the day with something productive. After days of job searching, taking a break can refresh your mind and give you renewed energy. If you take a break by volunteer, you’ll boost both even more!