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Working for free profits the soul

Lisa Napoli Apr 23, 2009

Working for free profits the soul

Lisa Napoli Apr 23, 2009


Bill Radke: If you are facing a job loss, you know the uncertainty comes with that. The question is, what do you do about it? And some of the answers are inspiring. Lisa Napoli reports many unemployed people are volunteering as a way to fill the time and to reinvent themselves.

Lisa Napoli: Fifteen hundred people have jammed this ballroom on the campus of UCLA for a nonprofit career fair.

Ryan Tong of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program says more people than ever want to do work that comes not just with a paycheck, but with psychic rewards:

Ryan Tong: As you can see here, there’s a lot of professionals that are interested in doing something that’s good for people and then also getting paid for that.

Much of what’s being offered here today, though, won’t pay the bills:

Volunteer-seeker: Right now, we don’t have any full-time positions, but things might open up or internships might lead to something more full-time.

Another volunteer-seeker: Today we’re looking for volunteers and interns, but should people have their resume with them we’re more than willing to take it on for future opportunities.

Eighty nonprofits are recruiting for volunteers at this fair, and they say they’re having an easy time filling the slots. And it’s not just recent college graduates who will work for free. Many of the people who’ve come here today have long resumes.

This unemployed former airline worker says he’s been donating his time to several agencies since losing his job. He’s got several reasons:

Former airline worker: To keep busy and to learn some things and make some connections, and hopefully do some good for the world.

Helping people figure out how to do good and ultimately earn a living is the mission of Idealist.org. The job-search site organizes these nonprofit career fairs in cities across the country.

Idealist’s Steven Joiner says experienced professionals are accepting that big-buck jobs are drying up. Others, he says, simply want to make a career out of social service work. He says working for free can be a good way in:

Steven Joiner: So I’ll tell people, you know, never volunteer just to try to get a job, but if you’re volunteering to be involved in the nonprofit sector, never volunteer without having to be some sort of professional development step.

With so many professionals looking for jobs, even being strategic in your volunteer work can be a challenge. Nonprofits everywhere say they’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who are raising their hands to work for free.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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