I have a secret desire to be a music technician. Yeah, a sound engineer. The guy who slides the faders up and down in the recording studio, and does mic checks before the band starts playing.
I’m not quite sure how I came by this fantasy. I was never a music groupie. Nor am I particularly technologically inclined — I can set my PVR to record Grey’s Anatomy, that’s about it. But I have this burning desire to find out what it’s like to work in music production.
It’s something I’ve been too scared to explore, I’ll admit it. For the past few years I’ve spent most of my time learning how to compose rhyming couplets in Middle English.
So now I’ve graduated and I’m looking for some serendipity in my life — seeking some source of inspiration, if you will. So I figured I’d have nothing to lose if I signed up for an information session at my nearby college radio station.
Exploring your “pipe dream” is one of many reasons to re-think volunteering:
Get some practice
If you can’t get paid to do what you want, do it for free until you can find a paying job in your field. Most people who get stuck in job search mode get really good at writing cover letters and interviewing, but once you’re hired, you’ll need to be ready with the skills your employer actually hired you for.
TalentEgg Tip: If you’re looking for a full-time position in marketing or advertising, give a couple hours a week at a local radio station or ad agency and write some ad copy that will get produced.
Learn a new skill
Another “three years experience wanted” and you’ll be just about ready to jump off the nearest cliff, right?
If you don’t have the requisite experience for a job you want, volunteering is a great way to get your hands dirty and hone your skills.
TalentEgg Tip: Volunteering = free training opportunities. The better organized the company, the better quality the training. For example, join a non-profit board: learn to take minutes, keep official correspondence, or prepare a budget.
Meet new people
Need I say more? When you’re on the hunt for new prospects, the best thing you can do is expose yourself to new people in new situations. Job referrals often come from unexpected sources, so take the opportunity to chat up your superiors and fellow volunteers.
You never know when or where you’ll meet that new business contact, friend or partner…
Take a break
Frustrated by the job search? Volunteering for a few hours each week gives you the chance to get away from the stress of job hunting. It boils down to helping yourself — in more than one way — by helping someone else.
Have something to talk about even if you’re unemployed
This is by far my favourite reason for volunteering. It’s not easy to find your way in the world as a new grad. It’s even harder when you feel like you spend every last minute of every day obsessing about the next job prospect.
When you’re in this position, it’s difficult not to answer the question “What are you up to these days?” with a despairing sigh. But don’t fret. Donating your time — even if it’s only for a few hours a week — gives you something new to answer that question with.
TalentEgg Tip: When you’re talking with future employers, the time you spent volunteering signals that you weren’t sitting idle — you have a life outside of work and you’re in touch with your community, qualities most employers will find extremely attractive!
Take some action
A great place to find out about volunteer opportunities is through your school — opportunities are often posted on bulletin boards, forwarded through your department’s secretary and posted in the career centre. If you’re not still in school, do a quick online search to see if there are any volunteer opportunities in your neck of the woods.
TalentEgg Tip: Although most people associate volunteering with non-profit organizations, some companies — especially small businesses — welcome short-term, part-time volunteers. Put your feelers out and see if anyone could use your help for a while — even if they’re not currently hiring.
Training at the radio station starts next week for me and I’m really looking forward to it for all the reasons listed above. Volunteering often means taking a chance on something — maybe another person or a new organization.
While it sometimes seems like you’re giving up your time for free when you could be getting paid, the returns you get on your investment are phenomenal (though sometimes intangible).
If the idea has never crossed your mind, check it out. And if you’ve pondered volunteering, give it some more consideration. There’s no telling where serendipity will come from.