It’s been the advice of the career professionals that I know – if you don’t have a job and are seeking one, volunteer to keep up your skills.
From a career development perspective, volunteering can help you develop new skills, enhance your current skills, give you leadership and organizational opportunities, help you network with like-minded people, try out careers, and give you much needed job experience that employers value.
Employability: If the intent is to obtain or maintain job skills, what evidence is there to show that volunteering helps employability? The Corporation for National Service, the umbrella parent of Americoprs*National Civilian Community Corps, an organization I volunteer for, conducted a ground-breaking study that showed:
- Volunteers have a 27 percent higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers.
- Volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51 percent higher likelihood of finding employment.
- Volunteers living in rural areas have a 55 percent higher likelihood of finding employment.
These statements were true regardless of a person’s gender, age, ethnicity, geographical area, or the job market conditions.
Health: Although these benefits tend to be somewhat truer for older volunteers than younger ones, the following health and well-being benefits to volunteering have been established.
- Volunteering leads to greater life satisfaction and lower rates of depression.
- People who volunteer live longer.
- The best way to prevent poor health in the future is to volunteer.
Social Connections: Increased social interaction helps a person stay connected with the community and network with individuals who can help with job seeking. In addition, other benefits include:
- Volunteering helps a person make new friends and meet new people.
- The more people volunteered, the happier they were.
- Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to one’s life by providing opportunities for creativity, relaxation, and a change of pace.
Finding Opportunities: Look in your own back yard to find people and organizations who need volunteers. Check libraries, senior centers, youth organizations, sporting events, parks and recreation areas, religious institutions, hospitals, boys and girls clubs, schools, and others.
There are some great Internet sites you can use to find opportunities as well. Have a look at the following:
Check out the listing of volunteer opportunities at http://www.idealist.org. As of this writing there were nearly 15,000 volunteer opportunities posted. You can filter these by education, youth, health and medicine, family, women, seniors, religion and spirituality, men, and veterans.
http://americorps.gov/serve is the official government portal that is the focal point for many volunteer opportunities across the US. The site also has many resources that you can use to start a volunteer initiative in your community.
Have a look at https://www.pointsoflight.org/. This site offers information on opportunities globally.
Let’s not forget that your professional associations also have volunteer opportunities.
Summary: Whatever your interest area, you can find a volunteer opportunity. Giving of yourself to others is a way to make you more employable, healthier, happier, and satisfied. What more can put a smile on your face?
Career Planning Academy’s course called Helping Clients Redefine Retirement suggests great volunteering opportunities for person entering or in retirement. Check out the other courses, webinars and certifications as well.