Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
I’m just starting my professional career and was advised to get involved with volunteer work. I’m wondering if volunteer activities can be a boost to my career in any way?
I am quite ambitious and want to use my free time wisely. Yes, I’d like to do community service work, but might it be smart to wait until later in my career?
Has volunteer work really helped people with their careers?
And congratulations on landing your first professional job. Glad to hear that you are ambitious, and the topic of volunteering as a career asset is a super one!
The answer is YES, YES, YES!! Volunteer work can be a career boost in many ways. Here are four possible benefits of volunteer work:
- Volunteer work grows your network! By participating in community related volunteer work you will meet with people you probably never would meet under other circumstances. You will become acquainted with people from many different backgrounds, ages, careers and interests. And you’ll all have the same volunteer work in common; a shared mission. You will get to know these fellow volunteers in different capacities than in their normal work lives. This could increase both your social and professional network, make your life more interesting, and be a good support and opportunity network for if or when career changes occur. During the economic downturn of 2008 I worked with many people who were laid off from work. It was terrifying for many and fear could be paralyzing. I always recommended they get going; even if they didn’t have a structured job to go to they could create structure on their own. I always advised to do some volunteer work to stay busy, productive and to expand their career network. I know of at least a dozen new job opportunities that opened up due to volunteer work connections.
- Volunteer work can grow your industry-specific and leadership skills. Volunteer work can include playing a role in a professional association in your field. For instance, I recommended that client who is a high tech recruiter join the Silicon Valley High Tech Recruiters Association. She wisely opted to play a visible, leadership role in the organization and within a few months, several new job leads came her way. By doing volunteer work in your profession you are also seen as a doer, a contributor, and a professional who is interested in lifelong learning, advancing your profession, and helping others in the field. Many companies believe in activating their employees and they team up with local service organizations. By volunteering with your fellow employees you can network internally and that can lead to advancement opportunities, too. Some employers even give employees time off to to the volunteer work.
- Volunteer work can give you a new outlook and more energy! Everyone has ups and downs at work. By having volunteer responsibilities, and another place to focus your energies, you can balance out the demands of work and even pressures that you might have in your personal life. It feels good to volunteer and to be of service. If you go through a period where you are not feeling valued, respected or motivated in your day job, your volunteer work just might give you the energy and enthusiasm you need to boost your mood and your sense of value!
- Volunteer work can increase your sense of personal impact! Many people are concerned about aspects of our world outside of work. There are political issues, environmental, educational, arts related, social issues, and more. We can increase our sense of purposefulness and impact by doing community service volunteer work. Think about topics and issues in our world that matter to you, research to find a local group, join, and become an active part of creating solutions in our world.
Ben, I strongly recommend you consider getting involved with volunteer work and weave it into a regular and key part of your life. Get involved! Add new dimensions of impact to your life. The benefits will be many, from a broader professional network, to a more robust social life and to the good feeling that comes from knowing you are making an effort to improve our world.
Go for it, Ben!
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