Is It Time To Volunteer?

Jun 3, 2010 by

Is It Time To Volunteer?

Feel like you’ve lost your mojo?

In the current climate it can be extraordinarily difficult to find any kind of suitable job, let alone one that you really want.

I’ve met a number of people recently who have been out of work for a number of months, in some cases perhaps a year or more. The theme that has run through my meetings with many of these people has been a growing despondency, coupled with a decreasing sense of self-worth.

In every case these people are bright, witty, engaging, and have a huge amount to offer. Yet they have appeared trapped, victims of their own self-imposed straight-jacket: a belief that they need to find a job, “Like the last one.”

Questions you should ask yourself… 

Did you really enjoy what you used to do?

For the people I’ve met recently, their last job was ‘what they knew’ and, therefore, what they thought they were good at… and what they should be doing.

In fact, challenging people on “What is it you really want to do?” has been enlightening. This first hurdle actually seems to be a major stumbling block for so many people. They simply don’t know the answer.

Do you feel trapped in an ongoing and unenthusiastic search for a familiar role?

For many people there is no genuine sense of urgency or desire in their search. It is more of a kind of lethargic box-ticking exercise.

Let’s be clear – this is not because any of those people are lazy or content with their lot.

Far from it.

They have become trapped in a spiral of despondency, searching for and being rejected from jobs that they didn’t really want in the first place. This lethargy takes over their lives, making it increasingly difficult to escape, and taking a severe toll on their psychological well-being.

This turns happy, fun-loving people into sad, soul-searching shadows of their former selves.

Only you have the answers…

Only you can work out what it is that you enjoy doing.

How to turn that into a job, and make a living from it, is also something that you will need to discover for yourself.

That living will probably need to be commensurate with a lifestyle that you choose. Nobody can decide that stuff for you.

There are, however, choices that you can make.

How to re-energise yourself…

If you recognise the image of lethargy that I described above, and you want to regain your own energy, then you need to begin by generating good feelings about yourself.

There are many ways that you might go about this, but some that seem to work for a lot of people include:

I believe that charity work, in particular, could be key.


There are so many different ways to approach charity work, from a paid role to volunteering in a local shop. The key thing, and probably the way to start, is to give of your time to help others.

Choose a charity that matters to you.

It might be a cancer charity, support for the elderly, or a children’s charity – whatever means most. Find something that engages you. Dare to even be incensed with passion for this cause.

Find out how you can help.

It may simply be spending time with people, or manning the shop; it may mean getting some training so that you can field telephone calls… or supervise children whilst their carers take a break. Whatever you choose, the detail matters only to you and those you help. The result may well make more of a difference than you can imagine.

Find out how it feels to volunteer.

People that I know who have chosen to do this have reported back, very quickly, that they feel energised and happier. They tell me that by giving of themselves they feel in a better position to take control of their own lives again.

I’m sure that seeing first-hand how there are always people in a considerably more difficult situation than your own can give you a new sense of perspective and urgency.

There are so many different things that you can do that take different amounts of time, from a few hours a week to a full time vocation. You still have a full-time job-search to manage and engage in… but those few hours spent giving to others will give you renewed energy, confidence, and passion for that search.

You never know, volunteering may even help you understand more about who you are, what you want to do, and how best you can combine earning what you need with finding the job, career, or even vocation that fulfils you.


  1. Che

    While I like Stewart’s article two thoughts crossed my mind while sitting in the bath this morning (sorry for giving you THAT image):

    1. Charities are not the only things you can volunteer to help. By way of example, I recently volunteered to help out at both a Primary and Secondary school in my local area – signing on simply to give teachers a hand in the classroom. I learned LOADS from that experience… not least that school is far more exciting than it was in my day, but that’s another story.

    2. In the current climate many of the more obvious charity organisations you might choose to support are, I am reliably informed, swamped with people seeking to volunteer… ostensibly to make their CV look better. Getting into those organisations will be as hard as finding a job. So, by way of offering a suggestion, why not look for the more unappealing needs in society? Choosing to help out with things that no self-respecting middle-class CV polisher would touch will at least allow you to get involved… and, who knows, there may be a “spiritual” side-effect for you to explore.

    Just my two-penneth… even if it comes from bathtime thinking… ;-)

  2. Melanie

    Well, Che, I’m sitting here in my dressing gown, which is itself a deeply unatttractive look, so apologies for that image ;-) but wanted to say this is a thoughtful blog which hit a nerve, particularly when it talks about the unenthusiastic search for a familiar role. Being guilty of that myself, I can only put that down to the desire to want my old life back, warts and all. A majority of redundant execs I meet up with have the same mindset.

    The change that redundancy wreaks is just too unsettling for most people. And time and distance helps you forget the bad stuff about the last role. And at least you were needed there. Well, right until the moment when they let you go……

    Good insight, thanks.

  3. Che

    Melanie, I guess I can relate to that feeling of not wanting to give up the past familiarity.

    I certainly remember, after taking a job here, finding myself harping back to the “old place” of my previous 12-year career. It took a monumental effort of will and reflection to finally let that go – after two interviews with “the old place” for jobs that, honestly, I didn’t want as much as I wanted the familiarity.

    Food for thought, eh?

  4. Marc

    I find maintaining structure and social interaction critical to maintaining your job search momentum.

    As the previous blog said focus on the how not why (or when). Set routines and targets, just like work, and team up with fellow job seekers.

    Get feedback and others ideas at what they see as your skills and likes by asking former colleagues, friends and family for 3 bullet points on how they describe you or would hire you.

    Look at job ad’s and list the reasons you do and do NOT want the job.

    Find ad’s / job descriptions for the role you (think you) want and then do an application role play with someone you trust to give you honest feedback, ideally someone who would be at the hirers level and not a close friend.

    Melanie talks about speaking to other redundant execs, focus on helping each other by teaming up, sharing goals and progress. Peer competition can be a great motivator, such as when x tells you they’ve added 7 new linkedin contacts and 2 job introductions this week.

  5. Marc

    Here’s a web site for introducing volunteers to organisations:


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