What Do You Do All Day?
(or "Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again")

The Blog

Wednesday, September 11, 2002


OK, here's me: screenwriter, screenplay analyst, freelance corporate communications writer and video producer/director, webmaster and various other things. Eventually, I expect this blog to evolve into something relating more specifically to my screenplay analysis work, but for now, it's going to be a catchall, where I can record items of interest.

First up, a rant I wrote yesterday to the Los Angeles chapter of Digital Eve - a women-in-digital-media group for which I serve as mailing list manager and editorial director. It's on the value of donating time to such a group, especially if you're unemployed or looking for work (and it has nothing to do with meeting people who might hire you):

Rant of the Day:

After I graduated from college in the early 1980s, I went through a long stretch of unemployment/underemployment (after a job that had been promised to me before graduation was unceremoniously withdrawn just as I was about to start work). Although I had several part-time jobs that kept me very busy during that time, it seemed like the loss of that once-promised job had somehow jinxed me, and I just couldn't seem to land my first big, career-launching full-time gig...and as the months stretched on, I became increasingly convinced that I never would, and that my video and writing career would be over before it ever got started.

As the months stretched on, however, and as I became more and more depressed about all of this, I finally realized that I needed to find a sense of community somewhere, and needed to be able to put my professional skills to use, whether or not someone was paying me, just to remind myself that I was good at what I did, and that I did really have something to offer the world. At the time, the church I attended occasionally was just starting up a volunteer video production group...so I decided to sign up. And it turned out to be the very best thing I could have done for myself.

Over the next couple of years, I put in hundreds of hours writing, producing, directing and editing video, training production crew volunteers and teaching classes in both production and interviewing techniques...and I made a bunch of terrific friends. But most of all, I got my professional confidence back, and proved to myself that even if no one had hired me yet, most certainly did have the skills to succeed.

About six months after starting the volunteer work, I did finally find a terrific (and terrificly busy) job...but by then I was having such a good time with the volunteer stuff that I never even thought of quitting, and stayed with the group until it dissolved two or three years later.

Since then, however, I've never forgotten what that experience taught me, and I've almost always been involved in some sort of volunteer work involving the skills I normally get paid for. And as valuable as the work is to me during normal times (when I see it as a place where I can just have fun at what I do, without the stresses that projects for paying clients can bring)...I've always found it even more so during those occasional lean periods when freelance work is hard to find, and I start to wonder if anyone will ever hire me again. In fact, no matter how badly I'm scrabbling to find work and pay the bills, volunteering my professional skills can be the one thing that reminds me why I love doing what I do, and why all the hard-scrabble times are worth it.

I know there are a lot of people out there these days having a tough time finding work. And I know how much time and effort it takes to look for work...especially if you've been doing it for a while. But if you are in that situation, I do believe that you really DO need to put in some active time with a group like Digital Eve, which can help restore your professional equilibrium, and which can help you maintain or regain the confidence you need to keep up the job hunt. It may even turn out to be - as volunteering has been for me on several occasions - the one thing that makes real sense in your life as you flail around in a confusing swamp of career and life decisions.

If you're out of work and just want a place to stretch your creative and professional muscles again, give volunteering a try.

If you're out of work and need to feel like you're part of a serious, professional community again, give volunteering a try.

If you've been out of work so long that you're starting to doubt your competence or employability, give volunteering a try.

And if you're lucky enough to still have all the work you can handle, but would love to find a place where you can simply have fun with what you do, give volunteering a try.

It's more than worth a place in your busy schedule.

posted by Elizabeth 1:08 PM

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All material © 2002-2004 by Elizabeth Fuller. Please do not reproduce anything you find here without the author's permission.

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