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Volunteering = Paid Work  

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“Never underestimate the value of volunteering”.
I hear myself saying that over and over again. To clients in disability employment services, to the youth that I mentor and to the public in general who tell me how hard it is to get a job.

It is hard to find meaningful work because the job market is just so competitive and getting more and more so as technology replaces the repetitive work we all seem to loathe in the past but now remonstrate about how much less opportunity there is because machines have taken over replaced much of our labour force. Competing for work now is more than just having a qualification and an impressive resume, it is also about our ability to be a ‘good citizen’ and becoming more focused on being the innovators of our own future.

Volunteering allows you, between jobs, to continue to build your skill base. Creating new skills that can be transferred to paid work. Just because you only volunteer to help landscape a community garden and you did not get paid for your work, does not make you less of a landscaper. In fact, your dedication to creating a space enjoyed by many for nothing more than the pleasure of doing so, speaks volumes about what an employer could expect of you if they offered you a job. And what of your social conscious? Clearly you are a person who enjoys and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors. You are hard working because rather than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring you are out in society demonstrating your abilities for everyone to see. You are obviously a social person because you work well as part of a team and you interact daily with the general public as they continually stop to ask, ‘what are you doing’? Your resume now includes, hard working, friendly, team player, enjoys a challenge.  All great qualities that employers are looking for, on top of your qualifications and impressive employment history.

Volunteering also helps you with those sticky career choices we all make at some point in our lives. ‘I just don’t know what I want to do with my life’. Volunteering gives you a unique opportunity to get out and about and try something new, discover a hidden talent or maybe, turn your talent into a whole new career. Imagine being paid to do something you love doing – isn’t that what we all aspire toward?

Being a volunteer takes a lot of courage. Putting yourself out there, using up energy and taking a chance, it is all a lot to ask and not everyone can do it. But to those of us who make the sacrifice, the rewards can be endless, and will almost certainly lead you toward a fulfilling career. Perhaps not the one you were seeking but what is life if it does not surprise us.

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Linda Rossow

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