This Is The Best Thing You Can Do While Unemployed

Being unemployed is no fun, to put it mildly. When weeks start to turn into months, the mind starts to turn from optimism into self-doubt, self-criticism and downright bitterness. So much of our self-worth is invested in having a job; when we don’t have one, for whatever reason, our mental health can really suffer.

While being proactive in your job search is important in finding the right job, this isn’t necessarily an antidote to the lows associated with unemployment. Tailoring your cover letter and networking will increase your chances of standing out from the crowd, but you might still find yourself battling away in a competitive jobs market months down the line.

There is a sure-fire way, however, to use your free time in a constructive way. And that’s through volunteering.


Donating time, energy and skills

Being unemployed does not make you useless and worthless. If you’re willing to spare a small amount of your time every week, you will be gladly appreciated by all kinds of charities. If you decide to volunteer you don’t (usually) have to worry about perfecting an application. You just need to turn up, and be willing to donate your time and energy to help others. Time, energy and a desire to be of service can be of immense value. Volunteers are paramount to the great work that charities do.

Also, if you have skills that are relevant to the volunteering position, then your work will be even more appreciated. Many charities need people who can do admin, IT work, web copy, fundraising, art projects, writing, editing, research, communication, customer service, etc. And if you have interpersonal skills – basically, if you enjoy meeting and talking to people – then could find yourself thriving in a charity work environment.

Also, if you get asked in an interview: “So what have you been doing since your last job?” then at least you can point to the fact that you’ve been building on your existing skills.


Gaining new skills

Another benefit of volunteering is the opportunity to gain new skills. Maybe part of the voluntary work involves putting yourself out of your comfort zone, and in this way, it can be character building. You might never have worked on a fundraising campaign before, but you decide to give it a go. And in the process you learn skills such as those related to teamwork: listening, questioning, persuading, taking initiative, communicating effectively, showing support, respecting other team members, problem-solving, taking responsibility, and being organised. All of these are transferable skills and will help boost your employability.

Interpersonal skills such as a non-judgemental attitude, understanding and empathetic listening can also be gained through voluntary work. And employers will be able to pick up on these skills in an interview.


It could lead to a paid job

If your goal is to work in the voluntary sector, or for a specific kind of charity, then volunteering is the most recognisable way to gain relevant experience. Volunteering won’t necessarily lead to a paid job, but it will certainly increase your chances of it happening. If you can prove yourself to be a committed and valuable team member, and a job opening comes up, then you may find yourself getting the job.


Finding meaning

The psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997) developed a form of psychotherapy known as logotherapy. It is based on the assumption that the underlying motivation in human life is the ‘will to meaning’, even in the most difficult of circumstances. We seek out meaningful experiences, relationships, projects and actions in order to feel fulfilled. Frankl argued that there was a strong relationship between a sense of ‘meaninglessness’ and mental health issues such as depression.

Indeed, when you’re unemployed, there can be a feeling of lacking meaning in one’s life. It’s no wonder then that unemployment is so intimately tied to depression. Frankl himself saw patients who were unemployed and depressed. And you know what he advised them to do? He said they should be of service and dedicate their time to voluntary work. This is because meaning can be found in doing good deeds. Frankl found that voluntary work consistently improved the well-being of these patients.

If you want to use your time wisely, improve your skills, gain some new ones, and inject some meaning and happiness into your life whilst unemployed, then volunteering is the way to go.


Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.