I’ve been following your posts and I know you keep telling people not to trust the media. So I’m curious about your take on this story from the Washington Post: “Volunteering lifts job prospects of the jobless” on June 17th. It says that volunteers are “27% more likely to find work than non-volunteers.”
I’ve been out of work for five months, starting to get a little desperate. But I don’t know if it’s better to spend my time on my job search or try to get a volunteer position? At the moment, with money so tight, the idea of working for free doesn’t appeal to me. On the other hand, if it really is a way in the door, I’d be willing to try it. Any thoughts?
This is one of the media articles on the current job markets that I actually agree with. So maybe I need to follow the Wash Post more often!
The idea is great. I'd like to expand on it. I don't think that volunteerism is only beneficial to lower-skilled job seekers; I think it's good at any level. Since that very good article focused on that particular group, I'd like to talk about others who are perhaps more skilled and experienced.
On a purely emotional basis, volunteering is a great idea for building structures into your day. That's always a big problem with people who are out of work all of a sudden - their regular structures, and people, disappear.
I don't encourage clients and students to seek full-time volunteer positions, though, because it would take them out of their regular search activities, and the loss of momentum is problematic. Go for part-time. Three days a week would be fine. No more, because it won't leave you enough time for a reasonable job search.
I think finding the right volunteer situation is critical for those who are more educated and skilled. By "right," I mean something that might add a skill that is necessary for the targeted career goal, or might reinforce an existing one. If you're an events planner, for example, getting involved in fundraising activities for a non-profit would be a great idea. Or if you're in finance, why not offer services in the financial area? Even though it might not be the same as the jobs you've been doing, it's something you can point to when going out on the job market.
There's one part of this that most people don't think of. If you're going to offer your services for free, you can negotiate! Yup, negotiate. I frequently tell the people I work with that they should discuss a few items up front:
- Ask if they will call you a consultant, rather than a volunteer. Looks better on the resume, and sounds better in networking and interviewing.
- Be sure what the role is, that it won't be a bait and switch situation. For example, you've been told you're going to help them design a new system for membership, and then you find out after you start you're doing data entry. Not useful for you.
- Ask if they'll provide excellent references for you (calling you a consultant, of course), assuming you do the terrific job that you plan on.
- Also, if you're going to do that terrific job for them, would they assist you by perhaps providing some help in your building new networks.
- And...perhaps if things work out well on both ends, would there be a possible position that might become available (if you're interested, of course).
I'm not surprised by the 27% number provided in the article. To answer your question more succinctly, do BOTH - volunteer and continue the search.
You can read more about the full report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, here.
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