Guest Column by Jane Stubblefield
(c) December 10, 2009
Whether it’s expected, or comes as a complete surprise, being separated from your job is a shock to your psyche as well as to your savings account.
I joined the ranks of the unemployed last February. After the normal cycle of blaming and raving, I realized what happened to me was truly a blessing in disguise.
Finally I could step back, evaluate my experience and decide how to reclaim my purpose in life, which was much more about creating a livelihood than it was about just having a job. Obviously I would have to devote many tedious hours to finding a full-time position, but I also wanted to make that search process creative, nourishing and outwardly focused.
After spending months networking within industries related to my diverse background, I ultimately decided to return to my passion and focus my job search on finding a position as a Director of Volunteers for a nonprofit organization.
Working with volunteers had always brought out the best in me, both personally and professionally, so it seemed logical that the next step in my job search should be seeking an appropriate volunteer opportunity to keep me nourished and connected to the professional community. My goal was to find an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, network with the people in my industry, and gain new skills to enhance my resume (pretty ambitious for a 63-year-old grandmother who recently had retirement in her sights!)
I soon was energized by a great opportunity! I am completing an unpaid internship at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. My assignment is to write a volunteer policy manual—a perfect fit for me right now. I’m “working” for a highly recognized and respected organization with professionals who appreciate my skills and experience. I’ll add this project to my resume, and I’m gaining valuable knowledge while conducting the research required for the assignment. By taking the initiative to pursue volunteer work while unemployed, I’m hopeful potential employers will see me as a resourceful, energetic and creative person who also takes responsibility for making a contribution to our community.
Whether you’re seeking employment in the private, public or nonprofit sector, the benefits of volunteering in these economic times are invaluable—a win/win for everyone!
Charities are experiencing unprecedented needs for skilled volunteers as requests for their services skyrocket and resources dwindle. Volunteers can provide much-needed expertise and in return, have the opportunity to freshen skills, add depth to their resumes and network with a wide variety of resources that can make valuable connections for them.
As for your psyche—volunteering turns your focus outward and helps you keep your own situation in perspective as you help those in need.
Ready to volunteer? I offer a few tips to help make your volunteer experience successful.
- Explore your passions and determine what matters most to you before beginning your search.
- Target your approach. Find a position that will enhance your skills, and once in a position, seek project opportunities that showcase your talents and leadership ability.
- Be genuine and don’t over commit. Be honest about what your expectations are and make sure you understand exactly what is expected of you.
- Always be professional and do the best job you can, no matter what you are asked to do.
- Take every opportunity to learn everything you can.
- Temper your expectations. Nonprofits don’t always have the same level of resources that corporations do, so don’t complain about what the organization may be lacking.
- Always speak well of the organization. You never know who is listening!
- Be humble and helpful, and always respect the staff and their clients.
- Don’t leave the organization in the lurch! Seek short-term projects rather than long-term commitments, and if you find a job and need to leave the position before the agreed upon date, figure out a way to finish the project before you go.
- Request a letter of recommendation from your supervisor when you leave, and be prepared to make specific connections from your volunteer experience to a job interviewer.
David McNally, international business speaker and author, suggests that “the seeds of thriving are sown through giving.” Aren’t you ready to thrive rather than just survive? You have the time; you have the skills; now go find your passion and volunteer today!
No matter where you live, organizations are waiting for your help. Step away from your computer and engage in a healthy activity with untold benefits. You never know where this path may lead!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Guest columnist Jane Stubblefield is experienced in volunteer and event management and is currently serving in a “nontraditional” internship with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. She lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where she sings in the church choir and enjoys spending time with her toddler grandson.