Over the years I have deepened my understanding of the human experience and improved my skills as a therapist by listening closely to clients. Recently, while conducting a workshop on coping with the emotional turmoil of unemployment, a participant offered a great suggestion to the group. When her children were young, she sometimes felt housebound. She started volunteering to get out of the house and connect with people, as well as make a social contribution.
Once she returned to work she was too busy to continue volunteering. Unfortunately, because of the downturn in the economy she found herself unemployed and spending hours everyday looking for another position. After a few months, she started to feel socially isolated. Remembering the sense of community she got from volunteering years earlier, she decided to try her hand at it once again.
It worked. She looked forward to working with other people and helping the less fortunate. Her motivation improved as well as her sense of self worth. As a result, she encouraged other members of the group to volunteer. When we met as a group a week later, she had inspired four other people to take on volunteer positions. One person reported that she was learning new computer skills. Someone in another workshop was hoping the skills she was gaining volunteering at an animal shelter would lead to a job at a privately owned dog kennel.
Our society is richer and more humane because of millions of volunteers across the country. For those seeking jobs, it not only enriches their lives but also adds to their resume. It shows perspective employers that you have a cooperative, sociable nature and are willing to give generously of yourself to support a greater cause. It helps answer the question “What have you been doing while unemployed?” Interestingly, a recent blog post on Ivyexec.com reported that 20% of hiring managers relied on volunteering as part of their hiring decisions.