Volunteer Your Way to a More Satisfying Career

According to a 2013 study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, jobseekers who volunteered increased their chances of landing a job by 27 percent. Opportunities for skills building and networking were cited as the most likely causes for such a drastic increase, but increased motivation and confidence were also credited with improving the likelihood of receiving a job offer.

While the connection between finding a new job and volunteering is well established, many women overlook the affect that giving back can have on your career even when you already have a job. “But I’m already so busy!” you might be thinking, “How can I possibly add some volunteer work into the mix?”

You might be surprised, though, how easy it is to make the time when you realize how volunteering can make a significant difference in your career satisfaction, and your ability to move up the ladder.

Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering your time and skills to another organization is an ideal way to meet new people and develop new skills without giving up your current position. However, it can also:

Provide New Perspectives
Whether you’re serving on a committee or a board, helping to organize an event, or simply providing an extra set of hands in the office, volunteering offers a glimpse into how other organizations operate — which could inspire some new ideas on how to solve a problem in your office.

Different organizations have different processes or methods of brainstorming or problem solving, and you might be able to put those to use in your company.

Build Your Teamwork Skills
Being able to work effectively in a team environment is an in-demand skill these days, and when you volunteer you’re often given the chance to develop those abilities. For example, serving on a committee with representatives from several organizations, each with different experiences and skill sets, requires you to develop diplomacy and negotiation skills that you can bring back to your own office.

At the very worst, you could even develop a new appreciation for your co-workers.

Allow You to Take Initiative
Employers want employees who are engaged and willing to do whatever it takes to get a job done. They want people who can not only identify problems, but develop solutions as well. When you volunteer, you are part of the solution, and the fact that you freely give your time to meet a need will undoubtedly impress your employer, especially when your activities are related to your career or your employer’s stated priorities.

For example, if your employer is committed to environmental issue, you might organize an event to collect donations of old boats or other vehicles as part of a citywide cleanup. Not only do you show out-of-the-box thinking, you make a measurable difference for both the city and the organization that receives the items.

All of these benefits can directly increase your satisfaction in several ways. First, the skills you gain can directly lead to promotions and salary increases, as well as new opportunities. However, there’s another benefit that’s often overlooked: Improved work-life balance.

Why Taking “Me-Time” Is Good for Your Career
Studies indicate that American workers spend more time working than any other culture. More than 25 percent of workers can be found in the office at night, and 30 percent clock in over the weekends. These long hours can leave one bitter and unmotivated, not to mention exhausted and sick.

Volunteering can actually improve your work life balance because it gets you out of the office, and focused on something else. Spending a  few hours a week sorting food pantry donations or playing with animals at the shelter can help shift your perspective, as well as help you prioritize your work more effectively. Since volunteering is proven to help reduce stress and improve overall health, just the act of getting away from your work and doing something else is bound to help you feel more energetic and committed to your career.

And what if you don’t like your job? If you’re profoundly unhappy at work, volunteering can actually help you make a change. As mentioned previously, volunteering allows you to develop new skills and explore a passion without giving up your job, but it might inspire you to seek a new career that will make you happier in the long run. Volunteering is, in a sense, a way to dip your toes in unfamiliar waters without diving in.

So even if you think that you don’t have time to volunteer, you can probably afford to carve out a few hours here and there to give back. Not only will you make an important difference in the lives of others, you’ll reap rewards in your career as well.

Photo by Iurii Davydov | Shutterstock

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