Here's a piece from the Wall Street Journal that details the career advantages of volunteering. Other than the great feeling and satisfaction you get from helping others, there are a whole host of positive benefits associated with serving a non-profit. A few of them:
- You get experience. You can increase your professional skills in an area where you may be lacking. For example, you may not be a great public speaker and not get a chance to improve that skill at work. You may want to volunteer to go and speak to groups about the advantages of supporting your favorite charity (with the charity's approval, of course.)
- You develop your network. I can't list all the ways my career and personal life have been helped by the network I've formed through volunteering. When you are working on a cause with someone, you are "in the trenches" together. And when a business opportunity or need comes up, you have a pre-developed relationship that makes asking for (and getting) help much, much easier.
- You may open up new career opportunities. That's what happened to me. And my son. Why not you?
- It can fill in the employment gaps. If you're ever unemployed for an extended period, volunteering can fill in the work gap so you can show you made productive use of your time while job hunting. I probably wouldn't jump right into volunteering if I was without a job, but I would if it looked like the unemployment time might be extended. I'd look for a volunteer opportunity that would add to my skills as much as possible, which would give me something to talk about (aka "spin") in the interview.
In Michigan I served seven years as the president of the board for a small ($1 million) non-profit as well as an Advisory Board member (and head of a fundraising committee) for the Salvation Army. I haven't yet determined how I'll be volunteering while in Oklahoma, but I've already been to a dinner where prospective board members were told of non-profits needing help. I have yet to decide what I want to do, but I will be doing so soon. Not only to help the charities involved, but also for the benefits noted above.
How about you? Has anyone else seen career benefits from volunteering?