Help Others, Help Yourself: How I Reinvigorated My Job Search by Volunteering

July 21, 2014

Spencer Lopez Volunteering

Will This Ever End? By the end of October 2012, I had been searching for my next career for nearly 7 months. I can safely say that it felt more like 7 years. The optimism I felt when my journey first started had trickled away in a haze of cover letters and job applications that received no positive responses (or no response at all). And if my feelings of uselessness and depression at that time weren’t enough, Superstorm Sandy promptly came along and plunged my family into darkness for 10 long days.

The Storm Delivers Chaos... And Perspective. Ironically, I began to see the light after relocating to my mother’s house. When the first images of Sandy’s destruction flashed across our television screen, my own predicament suddenly paled in comparison. The instinctive need to act – an urge so vital during military service and often suppressed thereafter – suddenly came alive inside me.

A call to assist Team Rubicon with recovery efforts went out on the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America website ( I responded, but the Team’s operations were not easily accessible due to massive disruptions in mass transit and a gasoline shortage that made driving long distances impossible. Frustrating, for sure, but I jumped back into my job search with Team Rubicon in my thoughts and a renewed sense of hope knowing that, frankly, I was far more fortunate that many who’d been hit much harder by the storm and its aftermath.

Time To Do What I (And You) Know How To Do. In April 2013, I participated in my first service project with Team Rubicon: an initiative to restore the New York City’s Vietnam Veteran Memorial to its pre-storm glory. It was the first time I had been around a group of veterans in a long time. What impressed me most, though, were the many non-veterans who volunteered that day. They had witnessed Team Rubicon’s efforts in Staten Island and the Rockaways, and felt a need to give back. Their efforts were truly inspiring.

Later that summer, I traveled to Seaside Heights and Manasquan, New Jersey to rebuild the homes of a Navy veteran and a Gold Star family. On what seemed like the hottest days of the year, many of us worked alongside the Home Depot Foundation to bring back what these deserving people had lost. As the sweat poured down and the blisters grew, a bond formed across Team Rubicon. I’d missed that camaraderie since my enlistment ended, and it emboldened me to enter the home stretch of my job search.

Help Others, Help Yourself. The four days I spent away from the job hunt had the most profound effect on my outlook. As I realized much later, putting my own problems aside and regaining a sense of purpose was the inspiration I needed to re-invigorate my own activities. Using the spark of energy from those summer service projects, I reevaluated and refined all the tools in my job search toolbox, and the fresh energy and enthusiasm helped me showcase my potential at the IAVA’s Operation Deploy: Madison Avenue career fair during Advertising Week, which ultimately landed me in my current career as an Advertising Operations Associate with MediaCom. While it may at first seem counterintuitive, consider volunteering if you are in the middle of a plodding job search. It just might give you the inspiration to get you over the final hurdle.

Editor’s Note: If LinkedIn has helped you transform your career or business, please share your story with us or write a post on LinkedIn with the hashtag #MyLinkedInStory. For more inspiration, check out more success stories.