This time of year is especially crucial for volunteering. As the temperature drops, caring for the needy in our communities becomes increasingly important. Holiday volunteers not only directly impact the lives of the people they serve, volunteering grants a competitive edge for the volunteers in the job market.
During this time of year, I work with many volunteers to prepare and serve holiday meals, collect toys and decorate our residential facilities. These opportunities ensure that low-income New Yorkers receive a hot, delicious Thanksgiving dinner that they may otherwise not be able to afford. It provides them with a social network with local residents, as well as fosters a sense of holiday spirit within and throughout our communities.
As the Volunteer Department Manager at Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council), my staff and I work with 2,000 volunteers across a spectrum of ages and range of locations in the greater New York metro area. On the front lines for the fight against poverty, I see how volunteers supply critical services and how volunteering can directly impact the volunteers themselves.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) study "Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment," volunteers have a 27 percent higher likelihood of finding a job while unemployed than non-volunteers. A LinkedIn study found that 41 percent of hiring professionals consider volunteer experience as important as paid work experience.
In today's competitive job market, volunteering provides candidates with an advantage to secure jobs by allowing them to accrue an additional set of skills. Specifically, volunteering:
- Instills Important Values such as dependability. Come on time and stay for whole project -- we always need help cleaning up.
- Empowers Volunteers to take Initiative: Be willing to take on any task. You may not always be able to serve the turkey on Thanksgiving, but clean dishes are just as important.
- Improves Body Language: Be gracious, open and friendly -- many opportunities involve working with people in need who could use a friendly face. Angle yourself toward the person you are working with, uncross your arms and of course, smile!
- Increases Social Connections through the network of volunteers. Meet new friends with similar interests and values, and have the opportunity to network with professionals within the organization and with people in different industries.
- Develops New Skills from leadership development to increased patience cultivated from communicating with people who speak a foreign language, to self confidence from going door-to-door with information on City programs to hard skills like painting a fence and cooking.
These news skills and relationships are so critical that during my eight years working with volunteers, I have written them dozens of reference letters for new jobs, awards and school applications. It is a great honor to be able to give back to our network of volunteers who help us work throughout New York City, in every community, providing services that we could never supply alone.
Met Council is one of New York's largest human services agencies, providing 100,000 New Yorkers with critical services in their fight against poverty every year. Whether your passion is fighting hunger, getting someone back on their feet, enhancing a senior citizen's quality of life, or helping a family affected by domestic violence, Met Council has opportunities for you.
For more ways to get involved and find an opportunity right for you, please visit: www.metcouncil.org/volunteer. This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll feature at least one post from a #GivingTuesday partner every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here.
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