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Out of work? How volunteering can open doors.

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The job search can be discouraging. Service activities offer a number of benefits to those looking for work.

John Kehe

This column is part of an occasional series about how you, too, can make a difference. It is written by the head of our partner organization UniversalGiving, which is dedicated to helping people give and volunteer.

Out of work? You might be saying:

“I want a job, but I just can’t seem to get one. I’ve sent out résumés; posted on Monster, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter; and updated my LinkedIn profile. Nothing seems to work!”

Or maybe you’re in an even tighter spot. You tried for a while, but gave up. Life is too fast, too competitive. There’s no place for you. Your self-esteem feels frozen.

Whatever is occurring isn’t working. Let’s take a new approach.

See how volunteering can help!

I often tell people that volunteering changes your life. It changes how you view the world. Being of service makes you slow down; it increases your gratitude. You feel you are fortunate; your complaints diminish. So what does this have to do with finding a job?

Let’s explore how volunteering can help in the process of getting a job. It can:

Foster a positive, receptive mind-set. You might feel low about being unemployed. That’s not going to help your job prospects. Start giving and feel good inside.

Be a great addition to your résumé. Volunteer activity on your résumé shows you are caring. But it’s not just about past volunteering. Current volunteering shows you are staying active and engaged. That’s attractive to employers.

Provide a connection during an interview. Your volunteering might yield something in common with your interviewer. Perhaps you’ve just cleaned up the Russian River in California. Perhaps your interviewer is an environmentalist. That’s a great icebreaker!

Help you learn important and practical skills. General skills such as teamwork are needed in any job. Volunteering is good practice! You may even be able to put more skills on your résumé, ranging from accounting and client service to operations and policymaking. It’s a grand opportunity for growth, professionally as well as personally.

Present networking opportunities. Volunteering can connect you to peers or more-advanced colleagues. Ask them about their current positions and if they like their work. If you are seriously interested, you could cultivate a relationship with them and discuss future career opportunities (possibly at their company).

Lower depression. In a survey by UnitedHealth Group, 78 percent of people who had volunteered in the previous year said that volunteering lowered their stress levels. That’s especially good during a job search.

Keep your soft skills up. Probably one thing that companies are most in need of are employees with good people skills. Professionalism, courtesy, decorum, and kindness are much needed in today’s workplace. Volunteering makes a habit of positive people interaction.

Research indicates that volunteering boosts the likelihood of getting a job. For example, a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that people who volunteered were 27 percent more likely to find employment.

Think less about being jobless and more about how you can give. When we start making the world a better place, new opportunities for good – and employment – will open up around you.

Pamela Hawley is the founder and chief executive officer of UniversalGiving. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize of community service). She also writes the blog “Living and Giving.”

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