Idle Workers Attracted To Volunteer Jobs

By Staff

March 6, 2009

Laid-off workers are pursuing volunteer opportunities in an effort to develop professional skills, network with new contacts, and simply to feel better about themselves.

According to Forbes, charitable organizations have noticed a surge in volunteerism. The Ronald McDonald House of New York has seen a 10 percent increase in volunteers since last year. In addition, applications to the Taproot Foundation, which places people in assignments based on professional experience, have increased 171 percent.

Aaron Hurst, president of Taproot, told Forbes that the majority of their volunteers are unemployed and looking for a way to stay engaged. Sometimes, he noted, the volunteer work can turn into paying jobs.

"If someone has experience working with a colleague on a project," Hurst explained, "they'll be more likely to hire them because they already know them. It's like interning at a company."

Imperial Valley News in Arizona notes that according to the Corporation for National & Community Service, volunteering leads to greater life satisfaction, lower rates of depression and improved mental and physical health. American companies have taken this research to heart, with some even offering employees paid time to volunteer.

In this economic climate, say experts, volunteering is even more essential. Forbes points out that when you're out of work, volunteering isn't just about giving back to the community. "It's also a way to keep your professional skills sharp, beef up your resume and make new connections," says the article. "The right volunteer job can help you get back in the workforce."

Massachusetts' Needham Times reports on Barry Nectow, who was laid off from his job as a commercial real estate loan officer, and began volunteering for Needham's Community Education program. He also began to volunteer for an after-school program which uses athletics to teach middle school students how to improve life skills.

"I was looking to do something in the school, around teaching," Nectow said. "I decided that while I had some time, in between jobs, I'd follow a passion."

Similarly, Becky Groom, who was interviewed in Forbes, began volunteering at Habitat for Humanity's outlet store in Seattle after losing her job in business operations. Now, she works pro bono as a project manager developing marketing materials for ElderHealth Northwest.

Groom's volunteering work has helped her tremendously. "This has really helped me feel more professional again," she told Forbes. "Having been out of work so long, I was starting to feel down and worried that I'd lose some of my skills. It's been a really good way to reengage and feel good about myself."

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