I just read this article, How To Turn Volunteering Into A Job, on US News’ career section of their website. The gist of the article is basically a couple of things: more Americans are volunteering over the past year, and more people are doing so to network. Interesting stuff.
I was actually surprised to hear that 40% of Americans had volunteered in some way, time period ending last October.
My guess is that volunteer rates go up when a couple of factors are present:
- when people have either more perceived time, or actual time in their schedules to volunteer, and
- when people are facing what they perceive as desperate times, or a crisis.
I would argue that we are seeing both of those factors now. Overall, people have more time on their hands. Unemployment is at a recent high, as 15 million people are unemployed (unfortunately, this only counts the “employable” folks, but that may be a topic for another article).
We have also seen the toughest job market this nation has seen in a number of years. Combined with a seemingly never-ending war in the Middle East, a rash of recent natural disasters and catastrophes, and a general mood that the health of our planet is in dire straits, there is at least the perception that there are a lot of problems that need our collective attention to help remedy.
But according to the article, one-third of volunteers under the age of 35 report doing so because they want to network. What does this mean?
These people are motivated to volunteer because they are hoping they will meet someone that may eventually help them find new employment. While there may be a few people that believe this takes away from the spirit of volunteering, I believe it is a great strategy.
I have heard many success stories of students and seasoned workers volunteering to network. Some do it when they are unemployed, while others do it on an ongoing basis and find better employment. The idea behind networking is to get out there and meet new people, to exchange ideas, and help one another. (I think in school they call it collaboration…?) But what better way to make a great initial impression upon a prospective employer than by working for free, hopefully for a good cause? This can be a great opportunity to break down those sometimes awkward barriers that exist at formal networking events–especially for more introverted types.
Moral of the story? Get out there and volunteer!