Moving your career forward doesn’t just occur in the workplace. Getting out into the community is yet another way to make things happen for yourself. And… Nothing beats the satisfaction of giving back to your community. Volunteering brings knowledge, experience, and positivity to your life.
As a full-time AmeriCorps member with City Year, I was a paid volunteer in my community for 10-months. It was the ultimate leadership-building experience because it allowed me to learn the issues, create programming that filled the gaps, and see the impact of my actions.
Here’s what I gained:
An increased personal and professional network,
A better understanding of the inner workings of organizational structure, and
A clear view of how long it actually takes to harness the resources and manpower to bring an idea to fruition.
This was a game-changer for my career! I was able to take those experiences and build them into a focused, long-term career that I enjoyed and it led to many accomplishments!
I’m not asking you to give up 10-months of your life to stop what you’re currently doing, but… You can reap some of the same benefits from volunteering in your community, even in the smallest capacity.
Enough about me… Let’s talk about how you can move your career forward!
Here’s How to Build Career Momentum:
1- Gain work experience.
Depending on the type of community work you do, you could learn something that will help you in your job or future work.
You can focus on skill-building by volunteering to offer a specific skill set as a service to a non-profit, free of charge. Use your accomplishments as a case study to grow a consulting business.
It may be that you’re looking for leadership opportunities, which could come from volunteering to be on a board or committee. As part of that committee, you can grow your ability to implement ideas and take on initiatives from start to finish. These are core management skills!
If your current position doesn’t give you the opportunity to utilize certain skills, volunteer at a non-profit in that specific department. The organization gets additional manpower and you grow your experience, putting you ahead of your co-workers in applying for that next promotion.
Worried about time? Community Involvement can be anything from a 1-day playground build, a weekly commitment to answer phones and file papers, or a monthly commitment as a mentor. All organizations have very different needs and there is bound to be something that aligns with your available time commitment.
2- Make new business contacts.
Getting out and giving back to your community will help you meet more people. Because each person has a network of their own, you never know how far your positive influence could travel - bringing you new prospects, clients, or even job offers.
You may think it’s important to stay within your comfort zone when volunteering, but you never know the kinds of new and innovative ways you can partner with people and organizations outside your industry.
Volunteering on big group projects gives you the opportunity to connect, and here’s an easy conversation opener… “How’d you hear about this volunteer opportunity?” Be open to talking to others about their lives, careers, and businesses and see what unfolds!
We all know that surrounding ourselves with the right people can help us move quickly toward our career goals. So be open to making new connections via volunteering and getting that ball rolling in the right direction.
3- Become known in the community.
When you’re ready to make moves toward your career goals, it’s helpful for people to know and recognize you in the community! Helping others is a great public relations strategy.
When you’re just getting started in your career, volunteering can give you facetime with organization leads who can offer advice or a reference. This is a great opportunity to talk about your long-term career goals.
If you’re in upper management, you can volunteer by offering guidance in your specialization, solidifying yourself as the “Go-to Person” in your industry! Getting out from behind your desk and into the community allows others to better understand the skillset you offer and your community sees you as approachable.
As a small business, sponsoring or donating to a cause can offer name recognition within your community. This is a great way to support organizational growth and get great advertising. You’ll find that others who support similar values may be drawn to you!
4- Add to your resume.
Volunteering gives you marketable experiences and qualifications to include in your resume. Everyone should include a “Community Involvement” section on their resume where you list the organization, volunteer title, and dates you participated. The experience you acquire as a volunteer is just as valuable as your work experience so don’t devalue it by leaving it off.
During the interview, your volunteer experience offers possible connection points for you and the interviewer, if they happen to be connected to the same cause. It means you’ll be able to talk about your shared experiences but most importantly, the organization understands that you have compassion for your community and are willing to invest time into something other than yourself.
5- Strengthen your community.
Volunteering contributes to your community by uplifting others in the community. It’s so important that our greater community thrives because we are all interconnected and our success can fuel the success of others.
Regardless of the benefits mentioned, helping others is just a wonderful thing to do! It does your heart, mind, and soul good to reach out to help others. Imagine if it were you, wouldn’t you appreciate the help?
Being a part of something bigger than yourself is so rewarding. We’re reminded of the impact we can make on others when we become a part of something bigger. Giving back to the community allows you those experiences.
Giving back to your community is important for a number of reasons. You might gain some experience, make new contacts, become well-known, and even add a line to your resume when you volunteer. But most importantly, when you give back, you’ll be strengthening your community! For these reasons and more, make it a point to give back to your community.
Check out the AmeriCorps website to search for volunteer opportunities in your community.