If there is something you can do but no one will pay you to do it, give it away. If you know you are the best at something, give your all and give it for free.
My current job is the result of volunteering and a sprinkle of very part-time work. When I moved to NC immediately after finishing library school out West, I knew I had a lot of work to do to become part of this state’s network of special collections librarians and archivists.
After coming in second for a number of exciting and very interesting jobs but remaining unemployed for the first month or two, I decided to take matters into my own hands. When I wasn’t job searching full time, I would volunteer at a local library to strengthen and develop my skills. I ended up working 4 hours a week as a metadata technician for Digital Forsyth and volunteering 6 hours a week at my local branch of the public library doing circulation and a bit of reference.
It turns out that both “jobs” tied to special collections, since Digital Forsyth is a collaborative project between a number of institutions in Forsyth County including the public library and Wake Forest. When a job suddenly opened up at the public library in the local history room, I knew I had the connections and experience to get at least an interview.
The rest is history. This isn’t a story of how “lucky” I was to land the perfect job, nor a tale describing the value of being overworked and unpaid. I know that if I had not put myself out there for free, even for a few hours a week, I would not have been able to get to know folks with whom I would end up working.
If you are unemployed, I suggest giving away your skills for free at a facility that needs you and cannot currently pay you. You will soon become irreplaceable and, at minimum, instantly attractive to potential employers.