Hey, we have another mid-week post by Gordon Dymowksi, this time looking at volunteering. I'm hoping that by next week we'll have Gordon set up with his own profile and posting access here … I've just not quite figured out the details of setting that up yet.
One thing of note … this is the 200th The Job Stalker post under my watch (there were a couple of dozen by the original Job Stalker, Julie Wernau, in the Fall of 2009, which are now available again via the by-month listing in the right-hand column) … as I've noted, I never thought I'd be out of a job this long, so it's certainly a bittersweet milestone from where I sit!
Gordon has a lot of good points in the piece below, but a lot of it is focused on working with non-profits, which is where most of his history has been … I find that I've been “volunteering” more on projects that might bloom into paying gigs … “sweat equity”, if you will. It is as much un-paid labor as working for a charity would be, but I find that lending my talents to various start-ups that may or may not get off the ground at least keeps my marketable skills sharp … but it's probably more a question of orientation. However, the idea of doing something which is the same sort of thing you'd be doing if employed is very useful in keeping up one's skill set … frankly, I started writing my book reviews during a previous job search just to give me something to write (and I'm still keeping up with that some 450 reviews later!).
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Recently, there have been frequent mentions within various contexts of a quote by personal role model Winston Churchill, who said (amongst many things) “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
In the context of a job search, the idea of giving time may sound rather irresponsible. After all, shouldn’t we be focused on finding a position, glancing through job notices, networking, and other job search activities? However, volunteering for non-profits, or even working on blogs and other content creation, can be a definite boon, and I am finding some great benefits in my “extracurricular” activities.
As I’m writing this blog post, I’m also working on marketing efforts towards Mission: Red, an experience auction that benefits the Chicago Red Cross held in September. (We’re also having a pre-event ticket sale party in August, and you’re cordially invited). Although it’s not very time intensive, I’m finding that work on Mission: Red has actually been…well, healthy. It’s allowed me to better schedule my time (using it as fill-in time between sending job applications), expanded my professional network, and more importantly – keep my skill set lively. (After all, e-mails to potential marketing partners don’t send themselves).
In addition, I also have several other non-paid commitments besides Mission: Red, including
- Working on an SEO presentation for job seekers in August (I will make a formal announcement when details are finalizing);
- Writing my own pop culture and non-profit social media blogs;
- Writing a monthly column and co-hosting a weekly podcast for Comic Related;
- Participating in Chicago Net Tuesday, focusing on integrating technology with non-profit/social good matters;
- And finally, a weekly post for this blog.
I know what some of you are thinking, “Gordon, my time is valuable. If I’m going to do something, I want to be paid to do it.” That’s completely understandable, and I am not suggesting that you fill your time with volunteer efforts in lieu of other job seeking efforts (like networking, sending out resumes, etc). What I’m finding with my own volunteer efforts Is that I’m beginning to refine and develop some of my other skills, including:
- Time Management – If I’m better structuring my day and delegating appropriate chunks of time towards job seeking, content creation, and outreach, I find that I’m less likely to “misbehave” (looking at Facebook profiles, wasting time on Twitter, etc)
- People Skills – It’s easy to be a hermit and spend 6 – 8 hours online, or to focus solely on interpersonal networking and “marketing” myself. Volunteering allows me to interact with people on a more “professional” level, refining my interpersonal skills which allow me to interview better, work more effectively, etc.
- Search Optimization and Online Engagement – part of what employers are looking for is a great match between skill set and position, as well as the potential value a new hire would bring. By expanding my activities, I’m not only encouraging online discussion within a specific subject matter range, I’m also making sure that those embarrassing web posts I made back in the 1990s are a little further down in search results. It also helps me “build my brand”, to use current buzzspeak.
- Building a Professional Network – Attending the same networking events with the same people might often seem futile; many of my volunteer/writing expands my professional network by going outside my usual comfort zone. I’m interacting with a different group with different professional interests; at the very least, I gain leads on contacts that allow me to become even more productive in my job seeking.
- Setting boundaries and prioritizing – thankfully, none of my volunteer efforts is too time consuming, but sometimes, someone will make a request that I simply have to say “no” to, or I have to reallocate time. Thankfully, I’m learning how to do so, which helps when I’m tempted to, say, play computer solitaire rather than write follow up e-mail, or deciding which is more important: sending off a resume on a job lead or writing a column. Thankfully, being able to meet deadlines and deliverables in my job search gives me “bragging rights” when I interview for a position.
So how can you find a worthy cause to volunteer for? Thankfully, much of my online efforts (including this blog) came through networking, and my non-profit volunteering is similar. However, you might want to consider contacting agencies like Chicago Cares or the United Way….or even Meetup.com to find groups that share interests both professional and personal. It’s not a shortcut, but at the very least, volunteering helps expand your network, your skills, and will bring you that much closer to your job.
But what do you think? Do you have any experiences with volunteering? If so, please feel free to leave a comment below. If you would like to contact me privately, you can find my e-mail address and other online profiles at gordondymowski.com
Thanks again for reading, and see you next week!
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