The Downside of Over-Volunteering

The Downside of Over-Volunteering | Whole Spouse

Volunteers are the heart and soul of our communities, and we all know that military spouses are often the first to step up and serve.  Volunteering gives us a unique opportunity to share our gifts with those in need, and reminds us how blessed we are to have these talents to offer.  It can also give us valuable work experience.

At the same time, I worry when I see military spouses using volunteering as a crutch, especially when it comes to re-entering the workforce.  I’m not worried about the professional volunteer who loves playing that role.  If that’s your calling, fantastic!  I am worried about the spouses who say they want a career and want to be paid for what they do, but can’t seem to get off the chronic volunteer track.  They are giving away too much.

Sometimes volunteering can become the path of least resistance that is safe and comfortable, without risking failure that seeking a job might entail.  To borrow the words of Sheryl Sandberg, I think volunteering is sometimes an excuse that keeps us from “leaning in” to our careers.

If you find yourself feeling this way, ask yourself these few questions before you take on a new volunteer commitment:

  1. If you knew you could be paid a market rate for this work rather than volunteering, would you prefer to be employed?
  2. Are you qualified to work in this field and be compensated for the work you do?
  3. Are there paid opportunities in your career field? (And don’t limit yourself to your current location, especially if you are in Podunk, USA!  Think creatively about opportunities for virtual work.)

If the answer to these questions is yes, then ask yourself if you have thoroughly put yourself out into the job market.  What is holding you back, or rather what is keeping you from leaning in?  If having a career is important to you, then don’t sell yourself short.  Knowing that you have value and declaring your worthiness to be paid for your work is the first step.


Michelle offers individual and group coaching for career-oriented military spouses.  Contact her for your complimentary coaching session.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *