OK, that sounded selfish. Let me re-word that…“How Volunteering Can Also Help Your Career.” That’s better. On with our story!
About five years ago, I decided it was time to switch tracks and return to school. At 40 years old. Oh yes, FORTY. Having been a chef for the previous 12 years, and now a newly single mother, I took stock of my skill set, which included multi-tasking, organization, adaptability, and mothering, and settled on the perfect career… Office Administration! Side note. I’m going to admit that at this point in my life, I was sadly lacking in both volunteer experience and the altruism needed to be a good volunteer.
Flash forward into the Spring of 2015 and I am looking for a placement for my course. Hello YWCA Niagara! This amazing organization is where the story actually begins. By the time I had to return to school, I was hooked. During an eye-opening four months, I learned more about the need in this region than I had in the 30 previous years. I became a dedicated volunteer. By stepping out of the bubble that was my personal circle, I gained knowledge, experience, friendships, a network, and most importantly, perspective. Volunteering makes me a better person, it makes me a better parent, and yes, it makes me more employable. Below you’ll find just some of the reasons you want to get onboard the volunteer train.
Get to know yourself
Volunteering can be a great way to learn more about your skills, potential for growth and development. It also gives you a safe place to have others evaluate your strengths and offer tips for improvement.
Improve current skills
Are you a student? Does your workplace not offer the opportunity to flex some of the muscles you have in your arsenal? Volunteering can help you sharpen skills you may have just obtained, or those that may require a good dusting off.
Develop new skills
After you’ve made use of the abilities you have, it’s time to develop new ones. Volunteer roles are less defined than those in business. Find an area that interests you and look for matching opportunities. Charities appreciate every person who steps up, and you are unlikely likely to hear “we don’t think you’re qualified for that.” Learn more about budgeting, leadership, marketing, event planning, or even how to groom a dog!
Develop a professional network
So, you have now gotten to know yourself and your abilities, you have honed the ones you had and developed new ones that interest you. Guess what? People have noticed.
While you were busy on your personal journey, you have likely gained the respect and appreciation of the people who are volunteering alongside you.
Volunteers come from all occupations and positions on the ladder. This forum is a uniquely level playing field upon which to build relationships. Take advantage of the connections you make to find out about hidden jobs or opportunities and pay it forward when you’re able.
Ultimately, volunteering needs to come from the heart; it needs to be fueled by a passion to help. If you already know where your interest lies…you share every Facebook post about animal cruelty or poverty, you joined the Women’s March or loved the idea of clean water available globally, then you have a great starting point. If not, start with that skill you want to learn and help where you can until you find the right fit. I promise, it’s worth it, for your career, your personal growth, and the charity waiting for your help.
Crystal Carswell sits on the NLSW planning committee and has been supporting the YWCA and the event in many wonderful ways over the past few years