Why Volunteering Over the Holidays Is Beneficial

When looking for work, many people take a break around the holidays. Partly, this is fueled by simple exhaustion and stress – many people just want to relax – and partly this is fueled by the idea that companies aren’t hiring around the holidays. This isn’t really true – in fact, you can get a good foot in the door by job searching over the holidays in many industries, but if you’re too exhausted by the job search and want to take a step back, there are still constructive things you can do that are adjacent to the job search. A big one is volunteering over the holidays.

What’s nice about volunteering over the holidays isn’t just the warm fuzzies you get for doing it, but also the huge range of industries you can dip your toe in starting this time of year by volunteering. This is particularly true in the Covid era where many places are having a hard time getting volunteers who are fully vaccinated and able to do things. While you won’t get paid for these few weeks or couple of months, you can get some great experience, network, and learn more about an industry. So, how can you help and how does it help you?

Industries that Require Volunteers Over the Holidays

Not all industries are going to be looking for volunteers. Your average bank or law office for example is probably not looking for people to run for coffee (although…) But there are enough places looking that you can get your foot in the door, particularly when you look at the social side of working. These include:

  • Working with kids: Reading in classes, throwing a party for kids in a shelter, sponsoring a family, babysitting for a family, hosting a neighborhood Christmas party (Restrictions allowing), volunteering in classrooms for events and outings, and shopping for toys, clothing, school supplies or other things that kids may need. If you have a particular teachable skill set like skating, sports, swimming, or skiing, you could even look at running a class or volunteering with a class to help.
  • Helping seniors. Plenty of seniors are alone during the holidays and would love to have someone stop by to keep them company. You’ll have to reach out to rec centers to see what their restrictions and covid policies are, but you may be able to do things like play games or sing carols or even just hang up signs outside windows to cheer people up.
  • Work in soup kitchens or volunteer for charities: whether it’s cooking and preparing food, collecting donations (monetary or items), or helping to sort donations, plenty of charities need help this time of year to organize goods and money, collect goods and money, and prepare it. If you have any skill at all in customer service, logistics, cooking, cleaning, sorting, organizing, and even packing or lifting, a charity somewhere may be happy to put you to work for a few weeks.
  • Shelters: homeless shelters and women’s/family shelters often need volunteers to gather items, sort them, clean them, and get them ready for distribution. If you’re uncomfortable working with people, but you still want to make a difference, this could be a way to do it.
  • Work with animals: plenty of animal shelters need dog walkers, kitten handlers, cleaners, and even shouts on social media to spread the word. You don’t need to foster or adopt animals to help out – organize a collection of blankets, pet food, and kitty litter or ask your local animal shelter what they need.

These sorts of places need help year-round, but to quote Dickens ‘it’s the festive time of year when want is more keenly felt’.

Skills You Can Learn or Hone as a Volunteer

Although many people don’t think of volunteering when it comes to successful job hunts, it can actually be a rather key point. There are all manner of skills you can pick up or hone by giving your time to someone else:

  • Customer service. From communication to problem solving to helping people in general, customer service is going to play a lesser or greater role in just about any volunteer position. This could range from helping people get food or find an object to canvassing for donations; it all will require an ability to work with people and help people.
  • Time management: when you only volunteer for an hour or two at a time, you are forced to prioritize what needs doing and how best to do it! Time management is a critical soft skill to have for any job, so honing it is always worth doing.
  • Communication, from writing and speaking, to understanding body language, communication is a huge part of anything you would be doing as a volunteer
  • Problem solving: Organizations always have things to deal with and issues to work through. Your fresh set of eyes and experience can be a real help, which you can then take to other employers as your job search continues.
  • Brand new skills: from working with point of sales equipment to computers to doing design work, you just never know where volunteering will take you. You might find a new passion or a new talent!

Other Benefits of Being a Volunteer

There are other ways that volunteering can help you out as you continue your job search or resume it in the new year:

  • Networking. Volunteering opens you up to new people, organizations, and businesses. With most of the jobs being on the Hidden Job Market, networking is critical in tapping that resource. Volunteering gives you more exposure to that hidden market and may land you a job more efficiently than simply casting your resumes out to the wild
  • Training opportunities: volunteers need to be trained in their duties as well and the skills and knowledge you gain can be put on your resume to add experience or round out your experiences.
  • References. There’s no reason you cannot use the person who had charge of your volunteering as a reference for job searching, assuming that person consents of course.
  • It lets you give back over the holidays and can be used as part of a plan to combat things like winter blues, lethargy, and boredom. Many people find that even just volunteering a few hours a week gives them more structure, lets them build a schedule, and alleviates feelings of winter blues and boredom. It may even help with depression, along with your usual care procedures of course.

In the holiday season particularly, there is plenty of scope for volunteering, even if it’s just for a few days! But those few days can really mean a lot to an organization, your community, and to your ability to search for that perfect job. From children to seniors, from pets to food banks, from reading to clothing, there are plenty of places and things you can do to hone your skills and give back.

In Prince George, might we recommend taking a look at:

These are just a few examples. If you want a one-stop place to look for opportunities, we would heartily suggest Volunteer PG (http://www.volunteerpg.com/ ) which brings together a ton of volunteer and membership opportunities for places all over the city.

Volunteering is a great way to hone and develop new skills, network, and give you a chance to give back to the community while looking for that perfect job. Give it a chance this holiday season!

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