Raise your self-esteem, renew your energy – volunteer

By Fran Sullivan hooray

Last May, after I lost my job due to a layoff, one of my first thoughts was that it was a good time for me to explore new opportunities and add some additional skills to my résumé.

As a professional Writer and an experienced Publicist, I’ve taught a number of fledgling Writers and found the experience rewarding.

Several months ago, I went to a meeting at a local women’s center, in Elizabeth, and discovered they needed a Writing Teacher for their Spanish-speaking guests. Since I am a professional Writer, I readily put my hand up to volunteer. In the months that followed, I learned that volunteering is a gift for the giver as well as the receiver.

Personally, I discovered that giving back to my community is a great way to boost my self-confidence; it lifts those feelings of low self-esteem that so often plague me as an unemployed professional.

Doing something good for others gave me a sense of accomplishment and pride. The better I felt about myself the more positive my outlook became and that was just what I’ve needed while I’ve been job hunting. Overall, I experienced a renewed energy.

In general, volunteering can also reduce the risk of depression. Nowadays, job hunting is such an isolated activity. The lack of social interaction can lead to feelings of melancholy and hopelessness. That’s why just getting out of the house and away from my computer did wonders for my state-of-mind. 

It also kept me in regular contact with others and led me to develop a new support system. When my Spanish-speaking students tell me I am a “wonderful teacher” and they appreciate what I am doing for them, it gives my spirits a much-needed jolt that restores my confidence.

Aside from the personal benefits, volunteering offers the chance to try out a different job without making a long-term commitment. You can gain experience in a new field. Often you can use the experience to do that same exact work for an organization in that field; and that can lead to exposure to professional organizations, which can be beneficial to your career.

Another bonus to volunteering is that it enables you to expand your social networks. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, my unemployed friend, Patty, used her time off to volunteer at a local soup kitchen where she met a group of like-minded friends. To this day, Patty and her new friends remain bonded through mutual interests.

For me, my most cherished benefit has been what my students have taught me. All of them came to this country unable to speak English. Without exception, they came here to make a better life for their families and themselves.

They tell me how hard it is to learn another language, yet they come to class every week to work hard and persevere. Whenever I am discouraged, their inspiring examples of courage and strength encourage me to continue – and that has been such a precious gift for me – the giver.


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