June 25, 2009
Is 2009 the year of the volunteer?
You've no doubt heard about the recession driving people to start their own business, try their hand at freelancing, or change careers altogether. You've probably also heard about laid-off folks spending more time volunteering for causes they're passionate about.
This rise in volunteerism should come as no surprise: Besides having more time to give back, many unemployed workers have wisely recognized the value of gaining experience in a new field or job skill as a volunteer.
What may surprise you though is how many more people are applying for social service programs like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps this year. Get a load of these statistics the Wall Street Journal recently reported:
Applications to the Peace Corps this year are up by 16 percent over 2008. And among the over-50 crowd, applications are up by nearly 50 percent this year.
Then there's Teach for America, which matches volunteers with low-income public schools. It received 42 percent more applications this year than last. Curiously, 25 percent of applicants already have jobs, up 80 percent from the previous year.
And during the first five months of 2009, AmeriCorps, which matches volunteers to nonprofit organizations in need, got three times the applications it received during the first five months of 2008. Even so, the WSJ reported that AmeriCorps will place 17 percent more workers this year in 10- to 12-month volunteer stints than last year.
All great news for volunteerism -- and the organizations and people served by them. But for eager applicants, the competition is stiffer than ever.
Readers, have any of you applied for one of these social service programs in recent months? If so, what's been your experience? Any tips for others vying for one of these social service spots?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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