15 January 2016
For many working professionals, it can be hard to find the time and energy to do the hobbies or activities you enjoy after a long day or week of work. However, while it can be tricky trying to balance the needs of your employer and your own personal well-being, volunteering can be one of the most constructive and rewarding decisions you can make in your career. Although some might see volunteering as “more work,” too often job seekers and working professionals overlook the potential benefits that can come from volunteering. Whether you are employed, in search of a new job, or simply looking to give back, here are 4 productive ways that volunteering can help to further your career. Break into a new industry & explore career alternatives If you’ve hit a roadblock, or you’re having difficulty figuring out the best career path for yourself, these are some of the best reasons to consider volunteering. For example, if you’re a new grad who doesn’t know exactly what you want to do in a broad industry, volunteering in certain roles can help you evaluate your professional strengths and weaknesses to see what type of role would be a good fit for you. Ultimately, volunteering gives you the time and option to decide if that type of work or industry would be the right decision (or change of pace) for your career. Sharpen old skills & learn new skills While some volunteers may choose to work in roles that allow them to exercise certain transferable skills (e.g., sales, design, writing, etc.), volunteering presents great opportunities to learn new technical skills or improve your soft skills. For instance, as a creative professional you might be limited to the tools and programs provided by your employer, so volunteering your talent to a charitable organization might give you the chance to learn to use different creative tools. In addition, working with different people through volunteering may help you improve certain soft skills (e.g., leadership, communication, negotiation, etc.) that may further enhance your skillset in the long run. On the surface it might not seem like these types of skills can come from voluntary roles, but with the right approach, it can only help to add value to your professional background. Expand your network & make new friends One of the easiest ways to expand your network is through volunteering with an organization. Since there are a number of reasons that can bring someone to volunteer, the possibilities of meeting interesting people and building new professional relationships are endless. Volunteering with organizations like iMentor, for example, not only enables you to meet people who might share a common interest in mentoring amongst other things, but the program also encourages mentors to build genuine relationships with the mentees they work with over the course of two to four years. Gain experience & potentially land a new job Aside from building professional connections, your voluntary role often times has the potential to evolve into a part-time or full-time opportunity. As you complete more tasks for the organization, managers or hiring decision makers may begin to take note of your work ethic and the overall value you could bring to the organization or team. For example, if you are unemployed at the time you are actively volunteering, this lets you get one foot in the door with a potential employer. By performing well over the course of volunteering and expressing an interest in working for the organization full-time, you can put yourself in the position of being a front runner for any relevant roles that are open. It’s important to see that while volunteering is ultimately an act of giving back to a community or helping a cause, changing your perspective on how volunteerism can positively impact certain aspects of your career will make all the difference in how often you volunteer.