6 Reasons to Volunteer When You Are Unemployed

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

During periods when you are unemployed, you may be hesitant to take up a volunteer position, particularly if you are actively hunting for a new job. Don’t be! There are numerous benefits to donating your skills while unemployed, and almost no downside. Just make sure you look for a position that also builds your resume, and don’t let volunteering take up too much of your time — remember, finding a paying job is your top priority and you need to devote 20-30 hours of your week to that.

Volunteering keeps your skills sharp

If you can find a volunteer position that uses your career skills, you won’t feel (or look) like you are getting rusty. For executives and managers, look for board positions or projects that require leadership and organisational abilities. If your skills are in communications and marketing, writing press releases or optimising a website will add lines to your resume and items to your portfolio.

Volunteering helps you build new skills

An employer may not be willing to take on an inexperienced but enthusiastic learner, but if you can find the right fit with a volunteer organisation, you may be able to acquire and practice a new skill in a real world environment. This can only enhance your resume when looking for paid work. For example, if you want to learn website building, you could volunteer to create or redesign a web page for a neighborhood association or local community group. Or you could offer to assist a more experienced person in maintaining the website for a nonprofit organisation, if they are willing to “show you the ropes.”

Volunteering shows employers that you are motivated and take initiative

A volunteer position helps you avoid the dreaded gap on your resume, and shows employers that even while out of work, you have the drive and energy to keep moving, especially if you are focusing on doing something that hones and enhances your job skills. Just make sure that you follow through on your commitment to the volunteer organisation, as potential employers may check your references there just as they do with prior paid employment.

Volunteering helps you build your network

It is can often be true that job hunting these days is more about who you know, than how many applications and resumes you send out. If you are out of work for a significant amount of time, your network can become dated and you can fall out of touch with colleagues in your field. Volunteering brings you into contact with new people and can give you a chance to demonstrate your abilities to them, putting you in their mind when they have an opening at their paid employment. When you volunteer, add it to your LinkedIn profile and add contacts to your network just as you would at a new paid job.

Volunteering can lead directly to paid employment

You should not volunteer solely as a way of angling for paid employment at a particular organisation. Non-profits and volunteer groups see a lot of this during times of high unemployment and it can be a turn-off rather than an asset. That said, if you are volunteering for an organisation that regularly has paid openings, you can have an inside track to know about those jobs before they are advertised to the general public.

Volunteering makes you feel needed

Don’t underestimate the psychological benefits of volunteering while unemployed. Particularly if your job search is dragging on and on, you can begin feeling unwanted, out of date, and isolated. Volunteering gets you out of the house and doing something productive. Feeling better about yourself makes a real difference in how you are perceived by potential employers, and makes it much easier to present yourself as someone with skills and abilities that a business needs, not just someone who needs a pay cheque.

Finally, some people are concerned that volunteering can cause their unemployment benefits to be reduced or stopped. Don’t worry — as long as you are not receiving financial compensation, your benefits will not be affected. Volunteering during unemployment can boost your job search in many ways, and allow you to benefit an organization you support in the meantime. Take advantage of this opportunity when you can, since you may not have the time available once you have a paying job again!

Are you struggling to write a strong resume or profile yourself on LinkedIn? The Career Consultants at Resumes for Results can assist with a wide range of professional career services, so contact us today.

If you would like to know more about the writer, Jeanette Hannan [click here].