COVID-19 has done collateral damage to our economy and markets, with the labor market being one of the many that has been heavily impacted. This leaves our job seekers feeling stranded and hopeless. If you are seeking an internship or if you are having a tough time throughout your job search because your offer has been rescinded due to the hiring freeze, I understand how strenuous this can be. However, volunteering would be your best bet at the moment to building your career. Yes, no one likes unpaid work however, being involved with your community can actually help you not only build your experience and skill sets, but it will also help build potential connections that could open doors for your future career.
Many students or recent graduates who have received an internship/job offer right before the global health crisis hit OR those who have even lost their jobs that they love and have been working with their employer for over a decade, is HARD. You are not alone. There are over 30 million others in the U.S. who are in the same boat as you. It is extremely detrimental and discouraging for those who have been out of the workforce for so long, and those who have social anxiety and depression because this can cause low self esteem issues during their job search.
Job searching is not easy because it is still a full-time job for the unemployed. Oftentimes, thoughts like these can cloud the mind – “I’m afraid of rejection”, “Most of these jobs don’t sit well with me”, “I don’t know where/how to begin”, “No one will hire me, I’m worthless”, “I don’t have the skills that they are looking for”, “I have employment gaps”. Do not become your own opponent. Do not let those negative thoughts consume you. It is okay to start from square one. It is okay if you feel like you are behind all of your friends who are working in big corporations. You are not behind. This is not a race because everyone’s careers have different outsets and paths. And of course, employment gaps are definitely understandable during this time, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT that this recession occurred.
So, with all of the free time that you have at the moment – why not consider volunteering? If you are looking for something productive to do, this is it. This is how you can keep yourself sane during unprecedented times like this, let alone your unemployment period.
Like I have mentioned earlier, volunteer work actually helps you gain access to a bigger network – which will open doors to your next job/career that may be waiting for you. For example, if you are an aspiring journalist – you may want to pitch yourself to an organization or business within the industry to write articles or press releases for free. Volunteering makes it easier for you during your future job search since every new connection you make at the organization can become one of your potential references.
Volunteering also helps you acquire skill sets, such as soft skills that will be transferable within the labor market. These soft skills include paying close attention to detail, excellent communication skills, good listening skills, time management, etc.
All in all, volunteering is not just a gap filler for your resume or LinkedIn – however it is a good way for employers to see in general. It is still “work” after all. Volunteers hold the soft skills that employers look for in an ideal candidate. It tells the employer that this candidate is someone who takes initiative and is driven by the work/passion that they deliver to the communities.
When we all think of volunteering, the purpose of doing so is for a good cause, right? Many job seekers tell me that they are embarrassed to include it in their resumes or LinkedIn profiles. There should be no reason to feel that way. It is something you should be proud of when highlighting your volunteer experience on your resume. Think of it as an accomplishment and showcase your leadership – that you have proven to take ownership by helping vulnerable communities and those in need, because chances are that you will outshine the other candidates; in addition to getting noticed by potential employers and recruiters.
While this economic recession and global health crisis will continue to impact our economies and markets, it is important that we collectively remain hopeful and build our self-confidence as we travel through this period of uncertainty together.