Unemployed? Try Volunteering at a Con

(This is a guest post by Lauren Orsini.  Thanks Lauren!)

When I was unemployed, my worst enemy was time. It was tough to shift from my identity as a constantly multitasking graduate student to suddenly being a part-time minimum wage cashier living with my parents. I suddenly had hours of free time, which you’d think would be a blessing. But a lack of routine just made me lazy and depressed.
I needed to find something to bring structure and purpose back to my life, and fast.

Enter Anime USA, a Washington, D.C. convention. They were looking for a new marketing director, and I accepted. A lot of people who work on conventions will tell you that they can make you a little crazy. However, I credit volunteering for Anime USA with helping me maintain my sanity!
First, it brought routine back to my life. I had a sense of purpose and fulfillment from working on a project larger than myself that would benefit thousands of geeks. It gave me a good reason to leave the house and interact with other people regularly. Instead of lying on my bed watching anime all day, I was devoting myself to my hobby in a more constructive manner. Since I felt like I had less time, I became more efficient and actually got more done every day as a whole than I had been doing before.
Second, even though I was a volunteer and not getting paid, working for the convention was a good transition into working in the corporate world. It taught me a lot about being a good manager since I was in charge of the group of volunteers in the marketing department. It taught me about being a good employee, since I had to report to convention chairs. I learned a lot about problem solving in our monthly staff meetings. Basically, it was as good as an internship in preparing me for life after school, except all my “coworkers” were just as geeky as I am.
Third, it helped me to network for a job. The vice-chair at the time, a graphic designer for the military, gave me lots of advice about web design skills and finding a job as a designer. As a person with my master’s in journalism, you can bet I also spent a lot of time getting names from my press liason to find out if any of the news outlets attending Anime USA were hiring. Turns out a few were and I was able to send my applications to a real person instead of an online job form.
I think convention volunteering can be a helpful stepping stone to employment for a lot of other geeks, too. Whether you use it to network, practice interacting in an office environment, or just bring routine back to your life, it can be very beneficial to making your life without a job fulfilling. And it’s not a one way street — all the conventions I know of are always looking for like-minded volunteers. Best of all, it’s a position that’s never dull since all the other volunteers have the same hobbies that you have, and aren’t afraid to show it. After all, a job that’s worth your time needs to be something you’re passionate about, and volunteering at a fandom convention can show you just how rewarding that can be.

Lauren Orsini