Employed people aren’t the only ones who suffer from boring work that lacks meaning and fails to fulfill. Sometimes volunteer work can feel the same way.
It might be due to a mismatch between the volunteer work you’re doing and your capabilities or interests. Or it could also be due to being given “back of the house” jobs that don’t seem to carry the importance of duties given to younger volunteers. Some volunteer positions just don’t measure up to expectations you had for your retirement years. That can take all the joy and meaning out of donating your time.
What’s more, some types of volunteer work are prone to trendiness or seasonality. For example, volunteering at food shelters during the holidays is so popular in Los Angeles that you have to reserve a spot early or you are turned away.
For seniors who are interested in making a deeper, long-lasting commitment, those types of projects can zap the meaning right out of volunteer work. It also makes it hard to make new friends, an important aspect of volunteering.
How Do You Find Meaning in the Volunteer Work You Choose?
To find meaningful volunteer work, you could try the approach a group of retired engineers took in Japan. Seek volunteer opportunities in your old career field.
Remember the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster a few years ago? The area is still rife with high levels of radiation and workers continue struggling to stabilize the plant. A group of about 200 senior engineers – and by ‘senior’ we mean they’re all over the age of 60 – has volunteered to face the dangers of radiation to help with the stabilization efforts.
They figure their generation should step up, since cancer caused by radiation exposure can take decades to appear. One volunteer is currently spending his retirement years at a cafe that helps people with learning disabilities master new job skills. He says he is eager to help out with what he feels is the important work at Fukushima.
Expert Advice on Finding Meaningful Volunteer Work During Retirement
If you’re currently on the lookout for meaningful volunteer work where you can make a positive contribution and where your tasks make use of your full potential, here are a few pointers. They’re gleaned from people who’ve managed to find volunteer work that’s not only fulfilling, but crucial and helpful to the rest of the world as well.
- Start with what makes you comfortable. Use your existing skills as you are getting to know the organization and the staff. Later on, as you adjust to the organization, you can take on different roles and responsibilities
- Be patient and flexible. You may identify a position that looks fulfilling but be put off by the agency’s seemingly disorganized systems. Keep in mind that many non-profit organizations simply don’t have the resources they need. So you may encounter challenging organizational issues. Stick with it and be patient. You just might be able to help them in more ways than you imagined.
- Look into ‘skills-based’ volunteering. Many organizations are looking for boomers who’ve retired and who have valuable career skills to offer. You can help an organization that might not otherwise be able to afford your skillset.
Making the Most of Your 3rd Act
Want to learn more about topics like volunteering during retirement years? We have articles and resources throughout our website. Stop back often to stay up-to-date!