Sometimes, doing more
actually is the right answer. And that seems to be the case with volunteering. Not only does it contribute to the greater good, but studies also link volunteering to mental health benefits, a stronger sense of purpose and greater life satisfaction.
Of course, volunteering can also help you advance your career by enabling you to develop and practice new skills, network with new people and even experiment with different career roles in a lower stress environment. Volunteer work can also help you stand out when applying for a new role or a promotion by demonstrating a willingness to go above and beyond, the ability to work with a broad range of people and a larger perspective beyond yourself.
Narrow your search
How you get started can play a major role in determining how successful and rewarding your volunteer efforts will be.
“Start by thinking about the issues and populations you feel most passionate about,” suggests Ann Fields, Grants Manager with the non-profit Wilkinson Center in Dallas. “You might look at organizations where you already donate money and consider donating your time and talents as well. If you care deeply about the cause, you will be more likely to bring your full self to the table, stick with the effort longer and truly enjoy it,” she adds.
Just like paid positions, though, volunteer work can require a transition period until you feel fully ‘employed.’ If you just dabble, the organization will be less willing to entrust you with greater responsibilities and you are more likely to remain on the periphery.
Connect to career
Especially in the early years of your career, volunteering can be a great way to build your resume while also giving back. Consider these benefits to making a meaningful volunteer commitment.
Build your experience.
Even if growth opportunities feel limited for a time in your current job, you can still stretch yourself with volunteer roles that allow you to lead others or oversee larger scale projects than you might at work. These experiences can also demonstrate to your boss that you are capable of doing more.
Develop new skills.
Maybe you have your dream role in supply chain management and are learning new things every day, but opportunities are limited to master skills in other areas. Volunteering can put you in a position to practice whole new skill sets such as public speaking, event management, people skills, fund raising or Board service.
Expand your network.
The people you work with often form the inner circle of your professional network. Beyond that are others in your company and those you meet at industry meetings such as WFF events and the WFF Leadership Conference
. Volunteering can help you meet people in new industries, at different career stages and with different functional backgrounds.
Learn about other occupations.
Especially early in your career, volunteering can enable you to explore other professional interests. Something as simple as taking on the accounting role for the school fair, writing a small grant for a local animal shelter or tutoring English language learners will enable you to explore new roles that could lead to new opportunities with your current employer.
Showcase your ambitions.
Your company needs enthusiastic team members who want to do more. Having an active volunteer life is another way to demonstrate that you are committed to personal and professional growth.
Flex your teamwork muscles.
If you often work alone or as part of a very small team, volunteering can give you the chance to get knee-deep in the dynamics of group processes. The ability to work with people is a major element of success at senior levels and honing those skills in a volunteer setting translates well to the workplace.
Grow your confidence.
Tackling new challenges builds your belief in your abilities and grows your sense of confidence. Especially if your current work environment isn’t especially supportive, exposure to folks who really appreciate your contributions goes a long way.
WFF offers several opportunities to get involved in leading our gender equity movement while honing career skills. Members can lead WFF Exchanges in their area, serve as Ambassadors between their company and WFF and can even share learnings from WFF events with others in their workplaces.