Helping Others: Before and After Unemployment

Before I begin, did you know that the universal sign for volunteering (according to google image search) is a bunch of hands in the air? Often presented with a variety of colors?

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Two years ago, when we had moved to the Twin Cities and I was looking for work and finding months of nothing, my personal mojo was hitting an all-time low. I was doing everything the job experts said to do, I was getting regular interviews, but nothing was coming through.

Then I saw a networking opportunity come along with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Minnesota, a professional development networking group. The event brought together marketing pros and non-profits that needed advice. On a cold winter day, I spent precious gas on travelling downtown to help a non-profit I never heard of. I didn’t know what would happen or if I would have anything to contribute.

It turned out that I did. The non-profit, which I can’t remember the name of anymore, needed help figuring out how to juggle the time needed to properly implement any plan. Another professional and I talked to them, and over the course of a few hours, sent them on their way feeling a bit better about their abilities to combat their marketing issues.

I didn’t get a job then, or make any contacts that would lead to a job. It wasn’t that kind of event in the end. I went home again back to job hunting, but feeling a bit better about myself for having the ability to share my experience with some people that needed it. It was a good boost to my fragile sense of worth at the time.

Flash forward two years. The event again crosses my path via Becky. This time it took place in St. Paul. I cleared it with work and was able to once again spend time with a local non-profit, this time the MMEA – they work with music education in the state. Over the course of a few hours, another marketing professional and I listened to the awesome work this nonprofit does, their pain points in communication, and offered a wide range of possible solutions to try. For questions I didn’t know, I was able to talk to my colleagues the next day to be able to provide an answer.

I felt relieved that some of their issues were how to deal with things on a content level – which is my home turf. I was able to talk about subject lines, email content strategy, and how to get the various voices involved in line and on message and how to make mass mailings more personal.

The 3 hours went by super fast. At the end, we went around and each non profit shared their problem and what they learned and will take back with them. Then we went around and each marketer said who they were and such. Of the 12 or so of us, 3 were looking for work. I felt like I was looking at myself from two years ago. I wanted to hug them, to tell them it gets better, but me at that time would have found that condescending and unfeeling. It was a tough reminder that times are still tough as hell for a lot of people. I hope that the event gave them the boost that it gave me. I hope they find a good place soon, because just by being there they were already good people.

I also wanted to hug the representative from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for having such a kick ass job board.

Bonus Anecdote – at the very end I was approached by a nice lady who said she also worked in Eden Prairie at *&#(@.



I knew it wasn’t Gloop, but my stupid ears don’t work well sometimes with words I’m not familiar with out of context. So instead of asking again, I nodded, and what I call “Joel-ed it up” by being awkward until she walked away, so I felt bad about that and probably left a bad impression on that nice person.

On the plus side, I did go up to another table for a non profit and tell them how awesome their site was already. Turned out the Nerdery had created it for them as a weekend challenge.

So, people are just being nice all over.

Speaking of helping others – you can too. A piece I wrote for Humanthology a few months ago is now accepting donations that will go to Daily Work, a local non-profit resource for job seekers. It’s a great cause and worth a couple bucks if you can spare them. Heck, they hired Becky on contract last year and helped us get through a very tough financial time. Go here for that. Feel free to scroll past my heartfelt tale of what unemployment is like to donate at the bottom.

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