Roadpost #7: The Perfect Antidote


It’s a difficult time to be looking for work. Melanie knows. She’s been doing it, and trying to keep a positive attitude. Some days it is not so easy, but Melanie’s found the perfect antidote: volunteering.

“If you volunteer,” Melanie told me, “you have a reason to dress up a bit and get out of the house to socialize and be productive. It’s a break from job hunting while still being an opportunity to work… plus it helps to shape the week.”

So what is Melanie doing in her volunteer time? One place she volunteers is the Great Basin Community Food Coop. She has fun there. You can see from the video.

She also does service in the library of a local charter school, where she had previously been the librarian. When the school closed the position due to funding cuts, some people couldn’t believe Melanie would go back and do the work for free. She did, nonetheless. “I got to fill a niche, and I am appreciated there.”

Melanie discovered several differences between her volunteering and recent jobs. “In a volunteer position, there is often more latitude to problem-solve and use other work skills than in a paid position, which has time-limited, specific work responsibilities and performance standards. As a volunteer, there may be more time to solve problems and use your skills creatively in support of an organization. The pressure is off. Volunteering offers new opportunities for growth.”

There is also a more practical reason for doing something for free that was once your job. “The school is one of my references. Along with the satisfaction I get from helping in the library, I am able to keep in touch with staff, and keep my job reference active.” Plus, the volunteer time itself becomes its own reference, showing she is still keeping busy as she searches for a job.

Melanie has some great advice for job seekers – volunteer at places where you feel appreciated and truly welcomed. At the Great Basin Community Food Co-op, she finds the group very warm and inclusive. And one of the best reasons to go back to the school library is the kids. “They remember me and are glad to see me again.”

“When you are unemployed,” Melanie says, “getting out into the world and connecting in some way is good for the soul.”

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