Volunteering: Prepare for a job or simply feel better

December 27, 2016 Shaheen Virani, CRC

When we think about volunteer work, we usually think about helping those in need or our community. But volunteering also can help the volunteer. If you want to find a paying job, test your job skills, stay active or lift your spirits, volunteering may be right for you.

Here are some ways volunteering can help you if you’re looking for work:

  • Volunteering can help you fill in gaps in your resume and answer questions in job interviews about what you’ve been doing since your last job.
  • More and more hiring managers consider volunteer experience just as valuable as paid work. Hiring managers can learn quite a bit about your personal characteristics – for example, initiative, commitment and compassion -- when they see you’ve volunteered. Volunteering can also help you show that you have related experience.
  • If you need to network and make connections for your job search, volunteering is a great way to meet people who can tip you to job opportunities, refer you to others who can help, and offer advice and support.
  • Volunteering can help you maintain your skills. And if you’re thinking about a new career, volunteering provides a way to get experience and more information about an occupation before you make the leap.

If you’ve become disabled but want to return to the workforce, volunteering can help you make some crucial assessments -- and those useful connections:

  • Volunteering offers people on disability income a way to test their abilities and determine how much they can manage physically and cognitively. Consider volunteer work that’s most similar to the type of job you’d like to have. For example, volunteer positions that involve clerical or customer service duties will help you assess your ability to perform this kind of work full or part time.
  • If you decide a job is right for you, use your volunteer work to flesh out gaps on your resume, make connections, provide career experience and practice your skills.

If you are feeling low and have time on your hands, volunteering can boost your mood and let you know that you are needed:

  • Some people with chronic illnesses such as MS may struggle with depression and social isolation. Volunteer work can help you get out and make friends. Over time, volunteering also can help you develop a support system to manage stress and depression, and bolster your pride and identity. Remember that the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to feel good about your life and abilities.
  • We have all heard from medical providers about how important it is to get exercise in managing a health condition. Volunteering can be a great way to stay active, especially if your work requires some physical activity. Consider helping at an animal shelter where you commit to walking dogs two to three times a week. Or be an urban nature guide for your city’s parks and recreation department.

For more ideas, visit VolunteerMatch.org. The MS Center at Swedish also can help. Call 206-320-2560 to make an appointment with a counselor.

If you have another chronic illness, check out Swedish Services to find a provider who can help you with your condition, or assess your abilities and suitable volunteer work.

Shaheen Virani, CRC, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

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