Like most people, you probably lead a busy life and actively try to make the most of your time away from work. It feels like there’s little to no time for one more activity. But it may be time to clear your schedule and make room for volunteerism.
Here are some of the many compelling reasons why volunteering could benefit your professional pursuits, along with a few ways to get started.
Volunteering Is a Natural Networking Opportunity
You’re familiar with networking by attending conferences and going to professional luncheons, but you probably haven’t thought of how volunteering could help you meet new people, too. While you’re around others during a voluntary gig, you’ll bring up things about yourself in casual ways. In the process, you’ll be getting to know people while showcasing innate abilities and notable accomplishments.
You’ll Sharpen Existing Skills
When you inquire about being a volunteer, the person in charge will probably ask you to briefly list some of your skills and how they match the needs of the organization. If chosen to pursue a volunteering opportunity, you’ll improve skills you already possess, making you more marketable in your career.
You’ll Set a Good Example
Volunteerism is a positive conversation topic, and people usually like to mention it because doing so makes them feel good. The next time a chance comes up — especially at work — feel free to talk about how you intentionally give your time. By being open, you might inspire colleagues to follow your lead.
Being a Volunteer Helps You Practice Patience
While volunteering, you’ll learn that a flexible, patient attitude is a fantastic asset. In your traditional workplace, things are probably rigidly scheduled, and you’re made aware of exactly how to meet expectations. However, things aren’t always so cut and dry in a volunteer role. During slow periods, you may sit idly for a while. However, you can use those times to watch others at work and learn from their actions, plus later apply patience to your profession.
Volunteerism Gives You a Broader Perspective
Although specifics vary depending on the type of volunteerism you choose, you’ll almost certainly experience things that make you realize life is very different for people outside your circle of friends. Working at a soup kitchen might make you feel more appreciative of every meal, while helping with a breast cancer fundraiser could make you even more grateful for good health.
A broader perspective is also useful in your professional duties. Based on what you learn by volunteering, you could feel well-equipped to speak up for marginalized groups or other, underserved people.
You Could Draw Attention to Your Career
By loving where you work, you become a company ambassador without even trying. Time spent volunteering gives ample opportunities to spread the word about your career path and employer if desired. After all, a common question people ask is, “What do you do?” Consider that prompt your jumping-off point to talk about where you work or bring up the fact that you’re an entrepreneur.
You’ll Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
An ideal voluntary position is one that allows you to make use of existing capabilities. However, you’ll also learn new things and get steadily forced to do things you might not ever have thought about before becoming a volunteer. As you gradually become increasingly accustomed to diving into new things with gusto, that ability will become apparent at work, too.
Become More Familiar With Different Ways of Doing Things
Many organizations that depend on volunteerism have limited resources, so they have to get creative to accomplish things. Your professional life has probably taught you some tried-and-true methods of checking things off a to-do list. Those may not all apply in the voluntary sector, but you can count on intriguing opportunities you might later use while getting paid as a professional employee.
Now that you know these fantastic reasons to get involved, here are some tips to help you land meaningful volunteer opportunities.
Attend Open House Events
Organizations that recruit volunteers often host open house events that allow individuals to learn more about the work involved. Keep your eyes peeled for these informative gatherings and plan to attend. Then, you’ll become familliar with how a group runs and whether you’d fit in.
See If Your Community Has a Volunteer-Centric Organization
Some cities have special organizations geared toward people who want to involve themselves in volunteerism. Usually, you’ll fill out a survey about your needs and abilities or attend an in-person interview with a volunteer coordinator. Then, you’ll get word when appropriate opportunities arise.
Look Out for Charitable Public Events
Train yourself to become more aware of people who are trying to publicly help others. Mericle runs the Lend a Hand Program to benefit communities in northeastern Pennsylvania. So far, it has contributed over 5,000 hours of service. Look for similar instances of people doing good and don’t be afraid to ask how you can get involved, too.
Read Local Newspapers and Blogs
You may already read a local newspaper or highly trafficked blog that helps you learn about things going on nearby. In between all the calendar entries about baseball games and computer literacy classes, you might find ways to volunteer.
Sometimes, they hide within larger news articles, too. For example, you might read an article about how an animal shelter just accommodated dozens of new animals. Hearing about that development might make you reason that the shelter staff could probably use more help. You could contact the organization, mention you read the article and say you want to become involved if possible.
Sign up for Relevant Email Lists
People often gravitate toward volunteering because they feel compelled to work for certain causes. For starters, they frequently give their emails in exchange for receiving periodic updates about what’s happening in an organization that relates to what matters to them.
In many cases, administrative staff members at those establishments target potential volunteers through those electronic communications. After finding an open volunteer position, you can write a cover letter to express your interest in a formal way.
Identify Un-met Needs
If you have a forward-thinking mindset, it may be possible to create your own volunteering opportunities. Imagine reading a news article about how a local charity just transitioned to a new phone system and its employees are struggling. After poring over the complete article, you might learn the technology is you use at work. Coming forward and contacting one of the charity’s representatives could help you make a huge impact.
You should now feel confident volunteerism is worthwhile. Even better, you can apply these tips to find amazingly rewarding ways to give back.
For this post, we’d like to thank our friends at Levo.