February 2, 2013

Getting My Groove Back Through Volunteering

In the volunteering world nobody cares how old you are, or how hip you look. In fact being old and daggy is a bonus. They're not interested in where you've been, or who you happen to know. There is a place for everyone.  And after sending off countless job applications, and attending interviews that have lead to nothing, my role as a charity op-shop volunteer has been a breath of fresh air, wonderful therapy (sans shrink), and an excellent way to become "rehabilitated"? to a structured work environment (after my hiatus from regular employment).  In short, it's been an unexpected pleasure to work in a place where people leave their egos (on most days) at the door, and have a genuine desire to be there.  I cannot emphasize this enough, after one or two feral micro-managers I have worked with in past lives. I digress.

A side benefit of volunteering, has been the learning of new skills, and fine-tuning of existing ones. It also enables me to close gaps in my CV. My co-volunteers are teaching me how to be a shopgirl. I love this idea, as I think at this stage I am over the library sector, and it was for this reason that I was drawn to getting into retail. With no skills in this arena, and refusals from the retail applications I have put forward, I thought the best non-threatening place to build up my skills, would be as an op-shop volunteer.  

Now,  alongside retail store veterans, I'm learning the skills involved in displaying everything - from donated designer cast-offs, chic shoes, unwanted academic robes, to cushions, bric-a-brac, and a horse-suit for dress-ups (I could now become boring - however it's about a size 0 if anyone needs one?).

My one hurdle to get over is learning to use a cash register (without feeling I need a Bex and good lie down afterwards).  I find point of service technology so scary to use. But as long as they keep being nice to me, I will persevere. I have discovered that you can purchase toy cash registers online. Tempting. At around $50, these learner gadgets come complete with faux credit card, sophisticated calculator functions, and are recommended for the early adopter 3 to 8 age group (right up my alley - could I claim it in tax?).

Over time, posting out job applications can start to feel like purchasing lottery tickets. An understatement.  And when you get knocked back frequently, you can start believing negative, post-interview "feedback". Self doubt about your actual capabilities can follow. And as the months go by, you wonder if you will ever get a "normal" paid job again. So the welcome change that comes from volunteering, restores confidence and steers you back into new, and productive directions. I now view myself, the world of work (both paid and unpaid), and life in general, in a fresh and positive light. Overall, it just feels good to be giving my time gratis, to an organisation that needs the support.

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