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Volunteer Work During Your Job Search: Setting Time Boundaries

If you’re unemployed, it might seem like a good time to volunteer. You might think you have way too much time on your hands now. This is a common thought (and a common pitfall) among the recently downsized.

If you think you have too much time on your hands, you aren’t effectively planning your day and scheduling job search activities. You are the only one who can manage your job search, and if you don’t claim your time, someone else will.

When someone needs a volunteer and they know of someone who is “in transition,” they start making plans for your time. No one actually intends to take advantage of you, but it does happen. Time is such a valuable commodity, and with so few willing to share it, it is in short supply—especially for volunteer positions.

To keep this from affecting you:

  • Schedule your Job Search Activities (value your time)
  • Strategically Research/Select an organization for volunteer work
  • Set a time boundary—and inform the organization members of your time boundary.

Schedule your Job Search Activities:

Once you Schedule your Job Search Activities, you will know how much time you need for various activities and which times you have available. It is only after you have considered your own needs that you will truly know what your time is worth; which is the first step to valuing it. Only by valuing your time can you guard it and set boundaries.

Strategically Research/Select an organization for volunteer work:

No matter how you use your time, consider the fact that you are “spending” it. The old adage goes that time is money. Likewise, you can invest your time or squander it. Once you consider time spent as an investment, your choice of an organization will reflect the value of your time. What you get in exchange for your valuable time should assist you in future earning power. Therefore, your choice should give you ample opportunity to network in order to secure a future position.

Set a time boundary—and inform the organization members of your time boundary:

For example, if you are part of a professional organization, offer to help with the meeting setup. Keep your boundaries clear and if demands on your time become too great, you always have the option to kindly decline.

Once you feel value for your time, you will be able to guard it. Consider your Job Search as a full time position with a workday of at least 8 hours of productive time for yourself. If you spend no more than one half day away from your Job Search—which is your new full-time job—it will be easier to remain focused. This means the time you devote to volunteer work should be no more than 4 hours per week.

Once you allow volunteer activity to take the majority of a day, the line becomes blurred, and soon your volunteer activity will take 2 days, 3 days, etc. until your unpaid, unproductive volunteer activity becomes your new full-time job.

You might feel this isn’t enough time to give back to your community. A stressful job search leads some to use volunteer work to offset anxiety and depression. If the volunteer work becomes a main source of happiness, before you know it, you’re no longer taking your search seriously.

This all may sound quite heartless. It’s great to give back to the community, but it’s a conflict of interest to give of yourself when you need to take care of yourself before attending to the needs of others.

If you still want to give more than 4 hours per week to your community, make a promise to yourself that you will spend more time on these activities once you secure your new position. Once you have secured a new position, your attention will not be scattered, and you will be emotionally ready to assist the community.

For further assistance with your Job Search, call us at 317-842-8881 if you are in Central Indiana.