Though I often speak of networking as the most important thing you can do throughout your life that will help you in your career development, volunteering goes hand-in-hand with networking, and usually leads to better networking. So if you think you could do better in your networking efforts, one place to start is with volunteering more in your community.
We all know that volunteering can lift your spirits by helping others out of your own generosity, as well as doing something productive for your community. So much of what we all enjoy in our lives would be missing without the people who volunteer their time to make our community better. Volunteering can be as helpful to the volunteer as it is the people they are helping.
3 ways volunteering can help you in your career development:
1. It looks good on your resume. Whether you are employed or not, volunteering shows that you live a full life, and that it’s not all about work. Especially if you’ve been out of work for some time, adding volunteer experience to your resume can show how you made good use of your time to help others. Employed or not, we are all busy. Start with a small commitment and see if you can build on that.
2. It creates opportunities to develop new skills. Keep in mind any skill you would like to develop and seek out volunteer opportunities that might help you to develop that skill. Don’t be afraid to ask the volunteer coordinator to give you an opportunity to do additional tasks that reflect those skills. For example – if you’ve been out of the workforce for sometime and feel you don’t know the current software commonly used, ask to help out in an office setting with tasks that will allow you to develop your software skills.
3. It gives you opportunities to meet new people. Volunteering will help you to meet new people with different backgrounds and work experiences. Keep in mind that as a volunteer, you might interact with not only other volunteers, but paid employees, and possibly board members and donors to the organization you are helping – all of whom have other contacts in various industries. Always strive to make a good impression. Give your best efforts, treating your tasks as you would a paid job. Attend the fundraising and public events with organizations you volunteer for. Start up conversations with others, let them get to know you, and share your contact information when appropriate – you never know where it can lead to.
So if you are like so many people who say they need to do more networking, consider volunteering, especially if you want to work in a different industry, or change career paths altogether. You can seek out something that will improve certain skill sets, choose something completely different from your work, or something that would be just fun for you. If you need help figuring out what type of volunteer work to get involved with, ask at your local place of worship, or go to http://www.handsonatlanta.org and www.unitedway.org to get you started. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment – consider 2 hours every-other week. Make the commitment, put it on your calendar. Before you know it, your contact list will grow and you’ll find yourself better situated for your career planning goals.
Contact me if you need help in your career planning.
Alicia Philipp, MS, LPC, NCC