Yes, you’ve heard it before; looking for a job is a full-time job. But job postings are not infinite, nor are our opportunities for networking lunches, regardless of our social prowess. Am I suggesting that this an excuse for spending half of your unemployed days indulging in sit-com reruns on daytime television? Of course not. I’m suggesting that if you want to commit to the “looking for a job is a full-time job” unemployed mantra, you need to be more creative than replying to job postings and calling up everyone you know to let them know you’re looking.

Explore the possibility of volunteer work. Volunteering will, of course, not pay the bills, but it will give you an opportunity to stay plugged into the reality beyond your living room, which will help your resume and your mental health. A strategically chosen volunteer opportunity will demonstrate to potential employers that you had the initiative and the follow-through to create an opportunity for yourself, it will help you generate key resume words related to your interest, cultivate current references, and it may provide the one networking contact you’ve been waiting for.

So how do you create a strategic volunteer opportunity? Spend some time thinking about the intersection of what you’re interested in and what industry you’re trying to find a job in. For example, if you’re interested in economic development and you want to find in a job in financial services, microenterprise may be a good fit; if you’re interested in veterans’ issues and you’re looking for a job in health care, volunteering at a hospital may be a good fit. Find those “good fit” organizations in your area and start a dialogue about how you can get involved. Find out what the process is to volunteer and ask to meet with volunteer coordinators, managers, or whoever is responsible for working with volunteers. Explain why you’re interested, what you can offer, and how many hours you can realistically commit. You’re on your way.

Read the next post to learn about how to get the most out of your volunteer opportunity.