09 Nov Volunteering: A Powerful Way for Ex-Offenders to Re-Enter the Workforce
We all know there are barriers and hiring gridlocks that make a smooth re-entry into the workforce difficult for ex-offenders. Chances are that you are already in the ring fighting personal obstacles, and getting the right footing in today’s job search seems impossible. While companies like the Comeback Collective help you address many of these barriers and help you add context to your criminal record, it all comes down to how you pool your resources, find opportunities, and get on the right track to avoid slipping back into behaviors that landed you behind bars in the first place.
What if there was a way for you to gain experience, competency, and demonstrate that you’re on the straight and narrow?
Gather round and let’s chat about volunteering.
Ex-offenders can leverage volunteer work as a tool to show competency and desire to work as a way to convince potential employers of their value. If their goal is to get hired, then the volunteer experience positioned as work experience on their job application is a viable and powerful option. As it relates to the workforce, volunteering may put you in the position to be hired officially. Organizations like Volunteer Match are resources for ex-offenders looking to find volunteer positions to help them land more permanent job opportunities.
There are other reasons why volunteering is a powerful experience for ex-offenders as they re-enter the workforce :
1. Volunteering Curbs Criminal Thinking
Whatever your circumstance or backstory, we can all agree that engaging in criminal behaviors is often preceded by a negative mindset. However, when you begin to understand the concept of ‘giving back’ through volunteering, it goes a long way towards changing negative thought patterns. Additionally, volunteering physically places you in a positive and uplifting environment where you can remain future-focused.
2. Volunteering Promotes Organization and Structure
The drastic shift in structure dynamics after release is something that’s tough to prepare for. It’s likely that you’ve gone from a strict daily schedule to complete freedom in managing your time. Sounds dope, right? But you want to be careful to use your time in a way that pushes you forward toward your future. Volunteering is a great way to provide structure in your day and keep you accountable to a schedule. Not only will you feel a sense of purpose and duty in showing up to serve others, but you will learn to fine-tune some basic skills needed for re-entering the workforce — things like setting your alarm, taking care of your hygiene and appearance (No, you don’t need to be decked in Louis but you do need to brush your damn teeth), and showing up to your shifts on time.
3. Structured Volunteer Programs Foster Hope, Confidence, and Skills
Let’s be real. Re-entry into life and the workforce can be overwhelming and, frankly, can just plain suck. As if housing and a lack of transportation aren’t already tough enough obstacles to face, it’s likely your self-esteem is shot and you feel helpless in the face of employer risk aversion.
Well-structured volunteer programs can cultivate a healthy culture for acceptance and offer ex-offenders a chance to contribute to society. Providing this glimmer of hope not only helps improve the quality of your life, but also positively affects your family and your community. Volunteer programs offer a productive environment both for the organization and for you as an ex-offender who’s really only hustling after a smooth transition back into society.
So what are you waiting for?
Hop on Google and see what volunteer opportunities are available in your community. You will most likely need to speak with the Volunteer Coordinator or Manager to confirm your eligibility. Don’t let this stop you. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking. Yes, it may feel uncomfortable. Use the tips in our article on Explaining Your Criminal Record to draft a solid message and get to work.
You’ve got the tools, Comebacker. Now go build your future!