TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The national unemployment rate hit a 26-year high in September, reaching almost 10 percent, leaving millions of Americans in desperate need of work. And, though it might sound odd, some career experts say one of the best ways to land a paying job is by working for free.
Joe Barron says at age 54, he has found his calling. For more than two years now he has been a volunteer member of the Disaster Assistance Team for the Red Cross.
"We'll have kids that burned out their everything, and tell me, 'Mister, I lost my teddy bear,'" said Barron. "Well, I go in the truck and go bring out two Mickey Mouses or teddy or whatever, and go give it them. Now, you can't buy that."
And, the sad truth for Joe is that, right now, he can't buy much of anything. He was one of more than 1,000 men and women last December who were laid off at the Goodyear Tire Plant in Tyler.
"I was the last one to walk out," said Barron.
But, all is not lost for Joe. Two months ago the Red Cross rewarded him with a paying job as an office manager.
"It's a part-time thing," said Barron. "I get paid for it, but it's just - it does alright."
"Volunteering not only allows you to show a continued work effort," said Gary Lynch, the volunteer coordinator with the City of Tyler. "Also, shows that you keep your skills and it shows a willingness to go to work."
Volunteer services coordinator for the City of Tyler, Gary Lynch says he too once landed a job as a photographer after starting off as a volunteer.
"If you're lucky enough to volunteer for an agency and become very valuable to that agency, they may look at you as a future employee," said Lynch.
Carol Hensinger is an assistant manager for a Trinity Mother Frances gift shop. But, she started as a volunteer.
"Don't stay focused on what you know because there's so much more out there that you'd be surprised that you might be pretty darn good at," said Hensinger.
"I gotta pay back," laughed Barron. "I gotta pay back big time, and that is what I try to do."
And, giving come around full circle. Career experts say volunteering is a great morale booster and is also a great way to network.