Working For Nothing: Are You Nuts?!

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I wouldn’t have believed it unless the local news hadn’t aired the story one recent evening. It seems that a locally managed food bank had been on the hunt for new volunteers, looking for at least two people to help the struggling nonprofit organization find new sources of food to stock its bare shelves.

job interviewThe word first got out thanks to an article published a few weeks before in our town’s weekly newspaper which resulted in hundreds of people applying. With a choice pool of highly qualified applicants, the food bank selected two people to head up the operation: a mid career executive who had lost his job when his financial firm closed its door and a recent MBA grad who decided she wanted to get in on the opportunity. Neither person will get paid, promising to be available to the food bank at least through the summer months, full time too.

A Nation Of Volunteers

America has long depended on volunteers to get special projects done, work that wouldn’t be completed unless hours were donated by tens of millions of concerned citizens. Volunteers teach Sunday school, work in hospitals, visit the elderly in nursing homes, join the PTA, manage a scouting troop, etc. But, most volunteers have something else for them to fall back on: either a pension or a full time job. That’s not always the case of a growing number of today’s full-time volunteers.

Out of work and not about to restart their careers any time soon, many laid off workers and recent college graduates have decided to devote themselves to volunteering, only it isn’t always with virtue in mind. A short term volunteer project can be just the right fix for the unemployed, a shot in the arm that could lead to a paying position later on. Let’s take a look at some of the pluses in working gratis:

Confidence Builder – Recent college grads may have a lot of education going for them, but little to show in the way of hands on experience. Even a short stint in a volunteer position can be useful, a chance to acquire new skills and to add that experience to the resume. Moreover, grateful administrators make wonderful sources of job references too!

Network Expander – You may have worked for one company for many years, but have missed out on networking opportunities. That volunteer opportunity will immediately connect you to your peers and put you in front of people who may know about the next (paid) opportunity, one that could be right for you. Everyone is a contact, so use your volunteer time to expand your network to include a new group of resourceful people.

Career Changer – One reality that so many of today’s laid off workers and recent college graduates are discovering is that their field of expertise or study has changed significantly, perhaps to the point where their old job or career path is no longer there. Working as a volunteer can give people the opportunity to explore what is out there, choosing a new approach to work that could land them an important career change, without needing to pay thousands of dollars for retraining.

Life Enhancer – Even a brief volunteer stint can work wonders, allowing the participant to gain a fresh perspective on what life is all about. In the case of the food bank, the two volunteers will be connecting mostly with food industry folks, but I can imagine that they’ll take special enjoyment in knowing that their work has meant a good thing, one that will ensure that a young child doesn’t go hungry, that an elderly person isn’t forgotten.

Don’t Be Taken Advantage Of!

Of course, not everyone can afford the “cost” of  working for free given that life’s expenses don’t cease when volunteering. Some organizations take advantage of helpers so make sure that if you’re using your car, buying food or shelling out other money that your expenses are reimbursed.

Adv. — Are you searching for scholarship money? If so, there is billions of dollars available to students each academic year. The catch? You have to apply for them! Please visit our Scholarship Directory to review what is available to you. Apply today — you could end up saving thousands of dollars this fall!

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