Sarah Blake LaRose (3kitties) wrote,
Sarah Blake LaRose

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volunteerism and potential job skills

Today's writing is disorganized... My mind is racing ... I think. Full of lots of thoughts is more like it. I wish I had a 48-hour day to work with! I want to write, and I want to work on 15 other things! I ended up catching a 24-hour virus yesterday and zoning out in bed with the keyboard. I felt badly about not getting things done at first--I'm very used to worrying about whether I'm really sick or just using a little pain as an excuse to be lazy because that's what people accuse me of. But I went downstairs and found that Mom was sick, too; so I quit beating myself up over it and just rested. I'm back on my feet mostly today, just having a bit of trouble focusing.

The unemployment discussion yesterday turned to the question of what volunteer jobs can be done by a blind person and whether those activities could lead to a paying job.

Many of these things [volunteer things I've done] are on my resume and translate well into pieces of jobs. Here is a bit of commentary in case it's helpful.

Child care: This has been the easiest to translate into a money maker. I often care for children in exchange for reading or driving assistance; but I also do it for cash and will negotiate rates depending on the number of children and other factors. I held a part-time job as a child care provider in a church-operated day care setting from February, 2000, until October, 2002. My reception at interviews for other child care positions has been mixed, and I have had difficulty finding open positions since moving back to Indiana because the field is saturated with college students who want the positions. I make the rounds every few months when school is out at the university and the students go home, and eventually this will probably land me another interview. In the meantime, I continue working out of my home for parents who know me and volunteering for events when volunteers are needed.

Writing/editing for newsletters: This also translates easily; however, writers are often asked to volunteer excessively. This is common for sighted writers as well, and many writers find it necessary to set limits on how much volunteering they will do. Warnings of companies paying very low wages abound, and it is common to see advertisements for writing jobs that count on the writer's passion for the topic to make money for the company. Very little of this money actually comes back to the writer. I worked with one of these companies for a year, putting in 20 to 40 hours a week, and made about $2,500 during the entire year! I was bound by a noncompete clause during this time and for 90 days following my resignation: I could write for other companies on other topics; but I could not write for any other company on the same topic. The same thing happened to me when I worked with another company as a contractor: I stopped receiving work but was kept on contract in case the company decided to use me again and was bound by a noncompete clause for two years following the termination of the contract. Since the contract was never terminated officially, I have no idea when that two-year period should have ended. Taking a similar job at a company marketing a competing product would be something I did at my own risk.

Directing a youth choir at a church: This could translate into a job depending on the person's background and other qualifications. If the person had the general qualifications to be a music teacher, this volunteer activity would make an employer very interested in her. If the person met some other teaching criteria, the employer might be a little less interested but still pay some attention because it demonstrates ability to manage a group of young people. Most employers in my field don't give it a second thought because it does not fit with the types of jobs I am applying for.

Peer counseling: See above but change the field a bit. This activity works well if the person is trying to get her feet wet in social service fields. Incidentally, I also list certain email groups that I moderate on my resume.Some of my groups are fun groups or not very active groups, and I leave them out. Two of my groups are highly successful disability-related groups which have been recognized by blindness professionals and neurology professionals respectively; and I mention them as part of my peer counseling/facilitation activity.

Serving on committees: This demonstrates ability to work as part of a team and in some cases leadership ability. I mention it on my resume.

Envelope stuffing: I don't mention this on my resume, and in my particular case I don't see it translating into a job. There are certainly jobs that involve stuffing envelopes as part of the job duties; but my experience is that these jobs tend to be highly dependent on vision. My interviews for these jobs have ended in a mutual agreement that the job did not fit me.

Baking for community events: For a person who is a whiz in the kitchen and wants to work in food service, this would be a super way to build a network. In fact, my baking would have landed me a part-time job if I had not moved to Florida. My mom opened a pastry shop in 2003, and we discussed the possibility of my working for her if I moved back. By the time I moved back, she had closed the shop due to low traffic.

Speaking to community groups or school classes about blindness and related issues: This has been a very productive thing for me and has resulted in a handful of paid engagements.

Making follow-up phone calls for community groups: This is another area where some boundary-setting may be necessary. My experience is that this type of activity may be useful on the resume but seldom leads directly to a job. The community groups that need this kind of volunteer services are generally not looking to hire.

Reading to children or elderly people: This may help to build exposure in the community and reading speed, and neither are bad things. These things may not be things a particular person needs, so this particular activity may not be the best activity for a person who needs a track to a job.

Scanning/validating for Bookshare: There are jobs that involve scanning and archiving. I'm not sure how accessible they are. I would love one since I love scanning and validating. I haven't listed this on my resume; but it may demonstrate that a person is able to attend to details.

If I branch out into hobbies as well as volunteerism, I find more things to put into my resume; and on my resume, I list this all under the heading, "Employment and Community Activity."

Singing and writing music: I list this on my resume as music composition, production, and performance at church and community events. It doesn't catch the eyes of most employers unless they are looking for music-related experience, production skills, or state presence; but it does demonstrate that I am active and not just sitting around watching TV.

Helping newbies on Aardwolf MUD and programming my own private multiplayer game: I word this differently on my resume: "assisting new users and developing new features for online multiplayer games." It demonstrates ability to train, work as part of a team, attend to details, knowledge of some programming concepts, and general activity during times when I have no employment history.

Building my web site: This is sort of a crossover with writing articles, but it also gives me the opportunity to learn HTML and other web design skills and concepts and has led to some paying work. I list it on my resume as work I have done since 1995, and I also list my URL at the top of my resume.

I have more things I want to write, but the CD calls.


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