McLeod: Volunteer your way to success

McLeod: Volunteer your way to success

June 21st, 2010 by Lisa Earle McLeod in Opinion Columns

Which is harder, trying to get a job or trying to keep one?

With 14.8 million people unemployed in the United States, job competition has never been stiffer.

If you've already got a job, there are plenty of people out there who are quite eager to take your place. And if you're looking for work, you already know how tough it is.

Companies close, departments shut down, organizations change and jobs we once complained about have become precious jewels.

Said another way, the days of just showing up are over.

So what's the secret of getting or keeping a job? "Volunteer," says sales guru Harvey Mackay.

Mackay, author of the classic best-seller "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," says that 65 percent of jobs come from networking. Volunteering increases your network because it connects you with people you might not otherwise have access to.

In his new book, "Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Secrets No One else Will Tell You," Mackay cites volunteering as one of "12 Herculean labors to keep you on the payroll."

He says to figure out what your boss hates to do and then volunteer to do it. "There will always be a place in this world for the person who says, 'I'll take care of it.' And then does it," he writes.

His other suggestions include not hanging out with the doom-and-gloom crowd and making yourself indispensable.

The same truisms apply to job seekers. If you're actively looking for a job, it might not feel like you have time for making yourself indispensable to your local charity. But what might happen if you volunteered to head up the animal shelter fund-raising drive?

Chances are, you'd get out of the house, meet tons of people and feel better about yourself than if you spend your days parked in front of your computer frantically searching job boards, calculating your dwindling savings and ruminating about what a jerk your last boss was.

When you're stressed out, volunteering may be the farthest thing from your mind. But as Mackay points out, "Volunteering puts you in front of people." People who might know someone who knows someone who might need your skills.

The average person will have at least three career changes and 10 different jobs by the time they're 38. Companies interview six to eight people for every job opening, and they typically look at more than 200 resumes before even choosing one person to interview. With sobering stats like that in mind, Mackay -- who offers numerous free tools at www.harveymackay.com -- says you should treat your career like a perpetual job search.

He writes, "You can have the finest moves in the talent contest, you can boast a trophy speed dial list on your iPhone, you can possess the single-mindedness of Paul Revere, and be as self assured as Muhammad Ali ... and you still won't nail the job unless you know how to mold your personal pitch. If this is true when times are booming -- and it is -- you can only imagine how true it is in times like these."

Posting your resume online, responding to ads and showing up for work isn't enough anymore. Career success is about people -- the people who hire you, the people who promote you and the people who recommend you.

The more you help them, the more likely they are to help you.

Contact Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, columnist, keynote speaker and business consultant.