I recently spoke on a panel regarding my career and how living overseas has impacted my options. During my preparation, and referenced in my speech, I thought about how volunteering is a big aspect of my life. The idea of giving back is a core value of mine that was instilled in me from a young age by my parents and was further solidified as a lifelong obligation once I became a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. While giving to others and the community is an important aspect of life, personal benefits can and should be taken away from those experiences. Following the panel discussion, I spoke with several individuals about leveraging that volunteer experience to specifically add value to one’s career.
There are tangible benefits that come with volunteering. I have written about this idea before, but now I want to get into greater detail. Below is a breakdown of the business/career related benefits I have witnessed and/or received through volunteering:
- Interpersonal skills: With each new organization and event, volunteering exposes you to a variety of people along all measures of diversity. Being able to effectively communication and build relationships in this capacity is excellent practice for speaking to customers and coworkers.
- Networking: Along with interpersonal skills, the same people you come into contact with offer a great opportunity to share what you do and learn about them. These are connections that you would not have otherwise made and likely vary from your current network.
- Time management: Adding time commitments to your schedule forces you to review how you spend that time. This is great practice for when work becomes more hectic due to increased responsibilities. Managing your time effectively requires practice.
- Leadership: This is one of the best potential benefits from volunteering. Overall, I think leading a volunteer group can often times be more difficult than a work group because many of the same incentives for individuals to follow through are not there; such as not receiving a paycheck.
- Management: Effectively managing and organizing is a great takeaway and helpful because it is often done with a limited budget.
- Motivation: With no pay, new ways to motivate people must be found. Positivity and enthusiasm can go a long way, but the small things like recognizing others and creating small wins can help keep the ball rolling.
- Delegation: Being able to delegate and follow-up with people on different projects or aspects of projects is great practice for the workplace. It is about finding the balance between allowing someone the freedom to own their work and not letting deadlines fall by the wayside.
- Recruitment: Bringing in new people is an important aspect of volunteering, especially when looking for leaders. Seeking out the right people with the right skills at the right time is an important aspect of both the work world and for volunteers.
- Business Development: Whenever someone has had to do fundraising as a volunteer, it is quite similar to conducting business development for a company. You have to try to find individuals and companies with a connection and lead them down a path towards “making a sale.” There are clear differences in the two ideas, but the strategy behind them is quite similar.
- Problem solving: When volunteering, problem solving is often one of the most important skills to have across all levels of involvement because the solutions usually require a high level of creativity.
These are real benefits that can be taken away from volunteering. Taking on a leadership role only increases the opportunities. Using one’s skills when volunteering is a great way to give back and learn something new along the way.
Please share a time where you were able to use volunteer experience to benefit your career in a comment below.