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Volunteering Can Help Jobless and Community

Last week President Obama called for citizens to step up and volunteer. He announced an expansion of the Corporation for National and Community Service as a way to promote these efforts. With millions of people out of work our national happiness index has nose-dived right along side our ability to try and buy happiness.

I wonder, can you volunteer your way out of this recession - and your own depression?

What did people do before the era of the mega-mall, back when we were still called "citizens" as opposed to "consumers"? Many people found volunteerism to be a worthwhile pursuit; and this sentiment is alive and well today.

In fact, Central Ohio boasts one of the top rates of volunteerism in the nation. So what does it take to be a volunteer?

Becoming a volunteer today is easier than ever. Online social networking sites make finding volunteer opportunities simple; however, if you can't find one that suits you then make your own opportunity. Reach out to your friends and take on an issue not already being dealt with. Just invite a bunch of people over for a potluck or something with the intent of brainstorming some solutions.

How do you have impact? Come up with solutions that focus on the positive, that have an implementation plan and are viable and sustainable. Avoid solutions that rely heavily on someone else to do the work. It's better to assume those people already have too much work to do; but you, you've got time on your hands - so use it!

Sharing your time and skills with a community of people doesn't have to be as heavy as feeding the hungry, it could just as easily be about creating social opportunities for professionals or sharing your interests and knowledge with others.

Of course that social activity might include feeding the hungry - there's plenty of room for crossover.

Use volunteering as a way to network within your community and to make positive changes that will benefit the greater good. Just like interviewing for a new job, volunteerism has the best outcome when you focus on the positive and how you are going to benefit others. Also, just like interviewing, you have the opportunity to make a good impression on others.

That good impression just might lead you back to paying work.

Your volunteerism could include using skills you have grown over the years and this is a way to keep those skills fresh. Your volunteerism may also offer you the opportunity to learn new skills; skills that you never had the time to learn in the past. Before you know it you may even have a new career direction.

So instead of sitting at home in a funk looking at the want ads for the 1000th time get out and volunteer! It may just be your first step back towards financial freedom. At the very least it will increase your personal happiness index. These days everyone could use a little more of that!

Andrew Miller is a WOSU Commentator and host of the blog Elephants on Bicycles