As the New York Times notes in a recent story, "Without a Job, but on the Campaign Trail," the current recession has inspired laid-off bankers, lawyers, accountants, real estate brokers and other high-ticket professionals to participate in political causes as a way to beat back depression and stay engaged. On a national level, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that volunteer labor in 2008 was at its highest point in five years; a total of 2.1 million volunteer workers marked a 23 percent increase over 2007.
In "Volunteering Opportunities Pay Off," TheLadders business writer Debra Donston-Miller asked nonprofits and professionals for tactics that can turn volunteer work into an employment tool. She spoke with two job seekers who actually made the transition. (Meanwhile, in a story called "Volunteering Expands Network, Reveals Jobs," Patty Orsini profiles Brian Clark, a sales professional who also used connections from his involvement in local politics to score a new job.)
The key, all these eyewitnesses agree is to find the right combination: a cause you can support that offers a role that fits your skills and exposure to decision makers who can help you achieve your professional ambitions.
"If you volunteer in a situation where you can utilize your day-to-day business skills, (it's) a great way to further your career because you're essentially doing a job and not just sitting around," Rahul D. Yodh, an executive recruiter with Link Legal Search Group in Dallas, told Donston-Miller. "At the same time, you're building some contacts, and you never know where that will lead," Yodh said. "If you can get a high-enough level volunteering position, then that's probably the best route to take."