Reasons to Volunteer When You Have No Job by Erin Shelby

The statistics for America’s college class of 2012 are tragic. According to the Huffington Post, as of February 2013, 50 percent of graduates have no job or are underemployed in jobs that do not fully use their skills – jobs that do not require a college degree and pay a low wage. In such circumstances, graduates are barely making ends meet. Why then are job-seekers from this class and others being encouraged to volunteer their time? Here are five reasons to volunteer while awaiting the ideal opportunity.

Fresh Skills
As a volunteer, you may be cast in a role that you feel is below you or not valuable. You might be asked to make coffee or take out the trash. However, this is a chance to prove that you can be flexible. You could be entrusted with bigger responsibilities or confidential information and have the chance to learn something that would cost money to learn in a classroom setting, such as a new software application. Volunteering can keep your skills sharp or help you build new skills.

Understanding of a Company’s Culture
You can’t truly know what it’s like to work for a company until you’re hired there. You can interview and ask intelligent questions, but until you’re part of the team, there’s a lot to learn. What better way to really see if it’s worth your time than to volunteer first? This will give you an insider’s view and help you prepare for any interviews there. Almost all interviewers will ask what you know about their organization, and if you’ve volunteered there, you’ll have a distinct advantage over other applicants.

A Distraction from Unemployment
Being unemployed causes stress that can radiate through job interviews. Self-confidence can deteriorate and a prospective employer won’t see the candidate at his or her best. Being engaged in volunteer work provides a distraction from stress by providing a reminder that unemployment or underemployment is a temporary situation and it gives the job seeker an avenue to contribute his or her talents and experience. It can also provide connections to others and a sense of belonging to a workplace or community.

Because College is No Longer Impressive
The New York Times recently reported that in many workplaces, the minimum educational requirement used to be a high school diploma, but is now a college degree. Because so many applicants are applying for positions such as a paralegal or receptionist, a person can no longer apply without a college degree, which means that having a college degree isn’t as impressive any more. How then, can anyone stand out? By taking on a volunteer experience.

Because the Old Saying Goes…
You’ve heard it a thousand times. In any job market, the person who gets the job usually knows someone already working for the organization. For many people, networking isn’t easy. Volunteering is a sincere way of networking that proves what a dedicated professional you are.

How to Become a Volunteer: Next Steps
If you’d like to volunteer, identify organizations you’d like to assist or a cause you believe in. Love animals? Check out the Humane Society. Want to help others deal with natural disasters? Investigate the American Red Cross. Have a soft spot for kids? Any school could use volunteers. Also consider how your degree uniquely qualifies you to serve an organization.