During the current economic downturn, a number of Calgarians, especially those employed in the oil and gas sector, have found themselves without a job.

It gives to reason that the increase in unemployment numbers would benefit charitable organizations that rely on volunteers, but, statistically, the unemployed are less likely to donate their time than their employed counterparts.

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 25 per cent of unemployed Canadians volunteer, a number similar to the percentage of full time workers who volunteer but much less than part-time workers.

Avra Davidoff, a registered psychologist and career counsellor with Calgary Career Counselling, says through volunteering, job seekers may gain skills or experience that can bridge them to their next position or potentially land them a job, but the time serving others can also serve as a valuable distraction.  

“It does benefit a lot of people to have a day where you feel productive,” said Avra Davidoff, a registered psychologist “If it’s volunteering, if it is networking, those types of things can be really important for just maintaining momentum for looking for new jobs rather than sitting around ruminating about what has happened.”

Davidoff says that in North America, too much emphasis is placed on career identity and the loss of a job can impact a person’s perceived level of self-worth.

“(Volunteering) can help to bolster their self-confidence and reduce anxiety that they may have had from being out of the workforce for a while.”

Civil engineer Michelle Mah had interned for a firm during the final year of her post-secondary education and expected to be offered a position at the completion of her schooling.

“They said that I would be hired back as soon as I graduated and I was kind of riding on that and not looking too hard for other jobs because I thought I had something secured.”

Mah spent her summer applying for jobs but turned to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity after she discovered there were few employment opportunities available.  

“I like it because it is enjoyable work,” says Mah of Habitat for Humanity. “I’ve always liked working with my hands and doing construction work but never really had anybody to teach me anything.

“Habitat’s great because there’s a lot of knowledgeable people here and they’re very willing to help you out.”

While Mah concedes her lack of a job is currently not a matter of life and death as she still lives with her parents, she is itching to get on with her life and start her career.