We’re so do-goody

January 30th, 2007

Angelina, the ultimate do-gooder?Actually American teens, boomers, and seniors are, according to today’s Christian Science Monitor, which ran an article called “Why volunteerism has reached historic high in US.”

It’s encouraging to see that 29 percent of Americans are lending a hand these days, no doubt driven by the realization that there’s more to life than staff meetings and stock options. Check out these excerpts:

…companies, including CVS, Best Buy, and The Home Depot, are giving employees time to volunteer and are rewarded with more productivity and higher retention rates…


“Americans want something more than a 9-to-5 job,” says Annmarie Emmet of Washington, who joined the Peace Corps at age 71. A retired government banker who never married, Ms. Emmet began volunteering at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall 18 years ago. In 2002, she journeyed to the African nation of Lesotho, where she spent two years helping those affected by the AIDS crisis. Her reason for volunteering is simple: She enjoys helping people.

“So many people sit in front of a computer in an office, and I feel sorry for them,” Emmet says. “I think so many people go to real 9-to-5-type jobs and don’t find a lot of reward in it, and I think maybe being able to help someone or maybe being able to offer something that is not expected, that can make people feel good.”

Yeah, but this woman is retired. I do wish the article had focused a bit more on recent grads who’ve just entered the workforce and want to do something other than park their rear in the cube for the next several decades but also need to make a living. Because merging service and commerce can be done, by starting your own social enterprise, doing paid work overseas, taking a volunteer vacation, etc.

You don’t have to look far to find younger women blending service work with a paycheck in the US and abroad. Sites like The REAL Hot 100 and There’s More to Life Than Shoes are filled with ‘em. And I interviewed many women for the book who have made a full-time or side career out of helping others, on just about every continent, too. If you have the book, check out chapters 7 and 8, on work that helps people and/or feeds your wanderlust.

Entry Filed under: Hitting the road,Overworked and underpaid

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ddv  |  January 30th, 2007 at 9:46 am

    This is a great upward trend! Some companies (like mine) have started to match employee volunteer hours by giving the charity $17/hour for each hour an employee works. So the Charity gets the work performed and cash. Bonus!

    I do know that lots of grads enter into volunteer groups after college not necessarily to help others as their primary goal but rather a cheap way to see the world and to get some extra time before they had to start paying off those student loans. But at least those in need were getting help…


  • 2. Michelle Goodman  |  January 30th, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    yay for your company (and my client), ddv. that’s cool. and you bring up a great point (totally discussed in le book): that helping build a school in a third-world country is a great way to get out of Dodge and see the world. for sure.

  • 3. naomi  |  January 30th, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    my professional career has been based on my college volunteering experience. I went on a volunteer vacation called BreakAway, to Washington, DC, and worked in homeless shelters and gave out blankets and meals to homeless people in parks, over my spring break. Oh, and I paid for it too. After college, I moved to Seattle and worked in homeless shelters for a few years, then went to grad school for public policy. And now, several years later, I work for the Teamsters, helping workers try to have a better life.
    volunteering rules!

  • 4. naomi  |  January 30th, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    oh, and my current job is 2 blocks from the first homeless shelter i ever worked at! On my volunteer vacation!

  • 5. Michelle Goodman  |  January 30th, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    wow, back full circle. i hadn’t even thought about that with you, n. but yeah, i love how volunteering blossoms into an entire career path. there are a bunch of people i interviewed (like you) who had that happen. go teamsters!

  • 6. Lily  |  January 31st, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I’ve learned a LOT from volunteering. My first employer encouraged me to get involved with as many non-profits as I could. REBUILDING TOGETHER SEATTLE (assisting low income and less able homeowners) taught me how to install copper water pipes, etc. and how to train and manage volunteers who have little to no construction skills. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION (enhancing the success of women in construction) gave me emotional strength to be successful as a project manager in a male dominated environment. If you’re immersed into non-profits, you can learn quite a bit while helping others and adding to your own resume. It’s a WIN-WIN situation.

  • 7. Michelle Goodman  |  January 31st, 2007 at 11:56 am

    thanks, lily!

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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