Friday, June 19, 2020

Is This the Time for YOU to Volunteer?

There's nothing wrong with giving back, especially during an ongoing pandemic and racial tension throughout major cities coupled with a distrust for law enforcement.  You may feel (especially if your paid work has been impacted) that this may be the time to diversify your skillset.  Many employment specialists, job counselors, and even college professors encourage volunteering as a way for freelancers or career changers to land a job or raise their profile.

Finding a Compatible Opportunity
However, there's the obvious factor, as some people would rather spare 20 hours a week driving for a food delivery service than give away their time.  Time can't always buy an extension on the rent but spending time at the local food pantry can dent your grocery bill.  Before signing up and showing up at the crack of dawn, it helps to realize that the offerings are rather basic.  In other words, it's not the place you'll find speculoos ice cream or Angus steak chili in the can.

Sites like VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and the Volunteer Generation Fund are ideal for finding opportunities that are both live and remote.  Many of these positions range from entry-level to executive or upper management.  When looking up opportunities, it may be a good rule of thumb to check weekly (unless this is all you want to do).  However, media jobs and those positions found in other competitive industries may require a faster response.  So if looking up sites every day isn't for you, it may help to set up an alert so that you can be notified by email or text once a relevant position has been listed.

Creating Opportunity Instead of Waiting for It

Often, causes that are close to our hearts tend to be the best choice.  Another scenario would be to offer services outright in exchange for a reference or client testimony of satisfaction.  Things like upgrading slow websites, planning a fundraiser, or managing an organization's social media accounts are jobs not commonly found at the state unemployment office.  This is also a good to perfect pitching skills or negotiating terms that work in favor of both parties.

The only thing that the careerist needs to keep in mind is duration.  Like a regular job, someone may overextend their actual commitment time in order to get their foot in the door.  Having to bounce midway or near the end of a project can actually defeat the purpose of volunteering.  It's like telling a marriage-minded friend they should go out with someone who's attractive but has nothing to offer outside of looks.  Unless said friend has it bad for beautiful people, you'd best steer them towards someone they have something in common with...or just get out of the amateur matchmaking business.

Looking For Something Different?

Organizations like Americorps offer incentives like basic health insurance, relocation opportunities, and tuition assistance.  While there's no salary, a stipend is offered as a bonus since many require 30+ weekly hours for a number of months.  Depending on your long-term goals this may work out, even though the application process can take a minute to process.

Another trend that some freelancers and those not ready to commit to a traditional job are volunteer vacations.  This isn't just an awesome way to give back to those in underserved countries but see things and people not typically in your backyard.  There's also a variety of countries and time durations that can work for many who want to take a short or lengthy trip.

Unlike volunteer conservation groups, these are not free.  While the initial price may sound good for all that's provided, applicants are responsible for health expenses, background checks, and other incidentals.  Not to mention, a few dollars to spend while away.  One alternative is to return to college and see if you are eligible to participate in a study abroad program.  It may not be fulfilling as volunteering but often expenses are covered by financial aid for qualified students.

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