How Volunteering Helps You
Drive Career Advancement

Published on December 12, 2017

Sharing time and talent is not just something to feel good about; volunteering pays off in other ways that can strengthen your personal brand and drive career advancement.

The efforts you put into volunteer activities are a worthwhile investment. You'll gain a lot by leading a professional association committee, serving on the board of a nonprofit, assisting with a college alumni event, mentoring students and acting as a brand ambassador of a charitable organization.

Volunteer work offers unique opportunities for professional development by providing avenues to enhance your skills, expand your network and learn about new areas of business. It enables you to step outside of your daily responsibilities (and comfort zone) so you can test the waters in other fields and business functions, igniting personal growth and self-discovery.

If you’ve been in a rut professionally, are in between jobs, looking to reenter the workforce or simply want to get involved and give back, taking time to help others can boost confidence, spark ambition and elicit a positive attitude. Plus, if you're looking for a new job, volunteerism can play a part when you're being evaluated as a candidate.

Aside from the obvious benefit of helping others, volunteering also can help you:

Grow Your Network

Volunteer activities are great opportunities to meet different kinds of people, including those who are influential and well-connected. You may meet fellow organizational volunteers, donors, executive leaders and strategic partners. By getting involved with a cause that you care about, you have a common ground on which to initiate relationships with others who share that commitment.

Growing your network may extend beyond the immediate organizational community too. For example, if you serve on the board of your local chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America, listing the association on your LinkedIn profile increases your visibility in relation to the larger organization, its stakeholders and the cause on a broader scale. This can drive expansion of your network as well.

As you meet new people, be sure to cultivate relationships by connecting in meaningful ways on an ongoing basis, beyond an initial email or connection on LinkedIn.

Sharpen Skills

Perhaps you’ve thought about pursuing a new role, but lack experience with a key qualification, or you’re a bit rusty with some of the requirements. Stepping outside of your day job and into a volunteer project affords you the chance to learn new professional skills while sharpening others.

Some of the highly transferable skills you can strengthen or develop include managing teams, projects and budgets, leading presentations and fundraising campaigns, coordinating events, liaising with sponsors and mentoring. If you chair a committee, you can further hone leadership and communications skills.

Broaden Knowledge

If you’ve focused on a single functional area over the course of your career (like marketing or finance) and would like to broaden your experience and knowledge base, volunteering can help make that happen. Additionally, you can gain an insider’s perspective into the inner workings of a nonprofit and other industries as well. This exposure is particularly helpful for those considering a career change or pivot into a different job function or industry.

If you serve on a nonprofit board, it can lay the groundwork for future leadership positions and board seats at public and private companies. In some cases, your involvement can turn into a full-time paid position at the organization.

Increase Confidence

If you’re in between jobs, unhappy in your current role, have a non-supportive boss etc., your confidence might be lacking. Pursuing a meaningful volunteer experience can be a catalyst to feeling more productive, helpful and valuable. Your improved confidence will come across when meeting others and you’ll make a better first impression. A poised and positive impression is essential when networking -- especially when pursuing your next opportunity.

Reinvigorate Aspirations

The expertise and skills you draw from as a volunteer or volunteer board member can make a difference in an organization, industry, community and individual lives. Seeing the direct results of your time and contribution is a reward unto itself and it may also drive a new approach to how you do your job.

In addition, working with and mentoring passionate, dedicated people is invigorating. The resulting inspiration, connection and engagement can motivate you to lead and collaborate more effectively. It can also help drive your career to the next level, whether within your current organization or outside of it.

Enhance Visibility & Credibility

Utilizing your expertise to contribute meaningfully to an organization’s mission and goals can elevate your professional reputation and reinforce sought-after qualities like being a trusted advisor, effective communicator, someone who gets things done and is collaborative, creative, insightful and dedicated. Your visibility and value within the organization and its stakeholders will grow. Organizational leaders, volunteers and board members may know the benefits of working with you firsthand, which can be helpful when pursuing future professional opportunities.

If serving on a nonprofit board, the appointment is a public endorsement of your expertise, showing that an organization entrusts you with a vital, visible and influential role. You can communicate and promote this affiliation, raising your professional profile among your peers, within your organization and possibly across your industry. This can help strengthen your candidacy for a promotion, new role or board position and increase your value in the workplace.

In Close

Giving back to causes, initiatives and groups that you feel passionate about – through donation of your time and talent – not only helps advance missions that you care about, but it also drives professional growth and career advancement. When you give of yourself, you gain back deepened interests, a broader network, greater influence and a stronger personal brand.

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