Some people are in hopeless situations, but that’s probably not you. The trick to making it out is to build a network. Odds are someone around you needs help with something, and that person will tend to have their own network.

Everyone around me had prodded me to go and volunteer somewhere over several months, but I believed I could build an Internet-based income quickly enough to not need a normal job or any points on a résumé. Flash forward a couple of years. I still believe I can build an online business, but I recognize that it’s not going to happen on the time scale I imagined.

I got up the courage to drive through thick lunchtime traffic in 90 degree weather to ask about volunteering at the library. It turned out that kids from the high school next door to the library filled out all the volunteer slots. I didn’t even know a library had slots, much less a limit. I suppose 1000 high school kids wouldn’t fit in the library, so it makes sense.

“Well if you need any computer stuff done, give me a call.”

Apparently that was the magic phrase, because the library manager offered me a spot doing what I’m good at: helping people with technology-related things like using the web and e-mail. Even if it doesn’t lead to a job when the library is hiring, a volunteer spot is a line on a résumé and a good reference.

Don’t let your fears–traffic on the way, hot weather, or that what you’re setting out to do isn’t what you decided you were going to do five years ago–make you back down from it. Nothing is as hard as you think it is unless you think it is. Sitting on your butt wishing you could change your situation isn’t going to change it.

If you can’t find a job, find someone who needs work done and can’t pay for it. When you’re at the bottom and have no experience to lean on, connections are golden. Volunteering is a good way to build a network while improving your community.