Build it and they will come, right? Wrong — whether you’re an entrepreneur running your own business, someone just out of school, or someone new to the area, you can’t just show up somewhere and expect business or job offers to start rolling in. Sometimes, you’ve got to work for it. But working your tail off without any income is painful, especially when you’re paying for a sitter. So, real talk, does volunteering help your career? Yes, when you volunteer the right way.
Pick a Charity or Cause You Love
Let’s be honest for a second; we gain something every time we volunteer. In a recent episode of Mike Rowe’s Paying It Forward (a Facebook mini-series where he surprises people and pays them back for the good they’ve done for their community), Mike commented on a recurring theme. The people who give so much of their time aren’t just doing it because its a good thing to do. They’re also doing it because they reap enormous personal rewards.
Usually, that means good feelings and fulfillment. But, by choosing a charity you know you love, you’ll be doing work that’s fulfilling with people who are of the same mind. That’s a great step toward meeting people who can help your career.
Know your Goal
More people are hired by referral than by random anonymous resume submission. So, if your goal is networking, shake every hand and learn something about everyone you can remember. They may not need your skills, but they may know someone who does.
On the other hand, if your goal is to expand your knowledge in an area, volunteer with organizations that will teach you the skills you’re looking for. Just make sure they know why you’re there so they can do so.
What if your goal is to be hired? Chances are, unless you’re a total rock star and save the day, you aren’t going to be hired after one hour of volunteering. You’ll need to put a little time in, but also recognize when the organization is just using your skills without responding in kind. This will only lead to burnout and disillusionment.
If your ultimate goal is just to volunteer, that’s awesome! Go volunteer, spread the love, and enjoy! We need to do things that fill our souls whether or not there’s income attached.
Pick a Charity or Event with the Right People
There’s an unending ocean of volunteer opportunities. Some organizations are great at empowering their volunteers, while others are just great at using them up and burning them out. It’s OK to be selective.
Choose an event or organization that will have people either working or in attendance that you want to meet. This could mean potential employers, possible clients, other businesses, or just like minded friends. If your goal (from above) is to get a teaching job, volunteer at the school-related events, not the animal-shelter events. Be where you’ll meet the right people.
Do it Well
This is an opportunity for potential employers or clients to see your work ethic when you aren’t getting paid. It follows then that when you are paid, your work will be of the same or better quality (not to mention the enormous benefit of your effort for the volunteering project). Ultimately, be who you are, put in the effort you normally would. Don’t fake it ’til you make it. Just be authentic to you.
A final note. Do not read just one of these tips and think we’re recommending that you only volunteer to get something in return. If the entire reason you’re volunteering is personal gain, you should probably just not. You’ll come across as self-interested and manipulative, and you’ll burn out really quickly. You’ll be a pain to work with, and you’ll be wasting everyone’s time. Volunteering can be a tremendous opportunity to fill your soul and give back to your new community while also allowing that community to support and empower your family as well. Do it right, and it’s a win-win.
Photo Credits: Unsplash