One piece of advice to the long-term unemployed always used to stick in my craw: volunteering. When you get older, you get jealous about stewarding wisely the most precious commodity you own– your time (we’ll discuss your physical energy later).
Frankly, no amount of green slips of paper will ever be enough to exchange for a moment of my life. Time is a non-renewable resource. In my grief over long-term unemployment I told myself I had nothing so I could not afford to give. Brimming with resentment, I felt pressured to go somewhere; anywhere and do something; anything just to say to the state government or job search counselors that I was indeed “doing something” about making myself look better to employers (who suck in their breath when they see a missing year on a resume).
Let me whisper something while you and I “are met” on this plane: there is a difference between volunteering and working for free. Working for free is something you feel obligated to do “for marketing purposes”. Working for free is working someplace without pay, resenting being there in your deepest heart, all the while watching the clock, giving people a “toothpaste grin”, hoping “the right people” will see you or read your resume.
Volunteering is doing real work somebody would pay you for, but you choose to donate the market value of your time to the service of something or somebody you love. Time flies by. You get joyfully worn out by day’s end. You dream about the next day; how you can make things run better; how you can streamline processes. If you don’t watch yourself, you may cut into the time you “should” be looking for paid employment. This kind of work gives you energy instead of draining you of energy. Just remind yourself to note the day’s little victories in your “brag story book” (read the last post. You’ll know what to do).
These days, I listen with different ears when anybody in my network mentions “volunteering”. The right volunteer position is a win-win blessing. Go to that cause or that issue which presses your heart buttons whether to do the Komen walk for the cure or sit another job seeker’s child while she goes to an interview. Right now, I’m helping fight homelessness, hunger and helplessness in the Washington DC area. What are you doing? Honey, you know what I feel about trading away my time for money.
I’ll never work “for free”, but I will always volunteer.