Anyone who has been through a life-changing diagnosis and found themselves out of work or looking for work should consider volunteering as a way to:

  • Fill in blank spaces on the résumé: When you take time off (or are unceremoniously let go from a job during cancer and its treatments) you will have some blank spaces on your chronological timeline of jobs. Volunteering at an organization on a part-time bases (if you are cleared to do so by your medical team) could be a good way to showcase you have work experiences in the midst of not working.

  • Enrich your skills: Volunteering can allow you to stretch and practice new skills in a safe environment. There is not a lot of pressure involved with a volunteer role meaning that if you fail at a task, you cannot be fired — this is a good way to get acclimated back to thinking on your feet and talking about things other than blood counts and PET scans.

  • Meet new people: You will be out and about and building relationships with the folks in and around the organization for which you volunteer.

  • Find potential opportunities: You can network with these folks when you are ready to transition back to a paid position and maybe your volunteer role could even become your new job.

  • Find potential references: Even if you do not wind up working at the volunteer role, you can rely on the relationship you have built to give you a great reference for your next job.

When you are not working, you have a lot of time on your hands and you can only “job search” for so long each day. Being in the home and thinking about your health might just be a bad thing for you to be doing, and if you are cleared to work and/or to do activity, you should consider volunteering.

What I learned from volunteering is how to:

  • Lead people effectively — without true responsibility for staff or volunteers but being the focal point and the “leader” when you are really just someone there for a short amount of time is an amazing skill to exercise and keep fresh.

  • Use project management skills — I was able to take my love of all things project management and execute it with an actual thriving business and these skills have come with me as I use them with my small business, too.

  • Keep my public speaking and communication skills sharp — just having the interaction and the ability to speak aloud was great practice for me.

What do you think about volunteering for your career after cancer?

If you like this article, check out careeraftercancer.org for more information and resources for your career after cancer. Follow us on Twitter @careercancer or Instagram @career_after_cancer or by clicking here.