Five WIIFM Reasons to Volunteer

Recently, I suggested volunteering while networking, saying that you get out of something what you put into it.  There are several aspects of volunteering that can benefit you whether you are retired, in a career transition, an outright job search or just trying to advance yourself within your current employment situation. 

Here are five useful reasons:

  1. Connections
  2. Skills
  3. Personality Enhancement
  4. Opportunities
  5. Sense of Greater Purpose

Your aim might be to get a new job or it might be to get new friends.  Regardless, you’ll meet new people as well as possibly reinforce existing relationships through volunteering.  I’ve made some enduring friendships working side-by-side with other volunteers.  I would also go so far as to say that these connections now make up part of my social network and act as my “virtual” team in my work and life.

I once heard great advice from a business woman who also volunteers for her favorite charity.  She said that you should always sign up for tasks or take on responsibilities that do not fall under your usual career area.  In other words, if you’re an accountant, don’t get into the finance committee – instead, volunteer for the publicity or fundraising committees so you’re a) not doing in your spare time as a volunteer what you do all day long as a paid professional (can you say burnout?) and b) so you learn something new.

Personality Enhancement
Leadership.  The first thing that comes to mind for most people who volunteer is that you’ll gain leadership experience – especially important if you’d like to move your career into a management direction.  While it’s true that leadership falls under the category of skills, it strongly enhances your personality, too.  Why?  Because public speaking as well as creating and carrying out a vision are skills that lead to more confidence.  Confidence is a sure personality enhancement.

Collaboration.  To me this is an obvious trait needed when working alongside other volunteers, whether you are a worker bee or a committee leader.  Let’s use the accountant example again.  Perhaps, as an accountant, you’re looking for a way to incorporate more people interaction to counterbalance (pun intended!) your time spent with numbers in your cubicle.  Volunteering, especially in performing collaborative, yet non-financial, tasks, is an excellent way to enhance your communication ability and, consequently, enhance the interpersonal side of your personality.

If it’s a professional or trade association you’re involved in, you increase your chances to hear about possible projects and job opportunities in the market.  You can keep abreast of news, trends or technology updates in your field and in the business community at-large.  These opportunities don’t always come in expected ways, so keep your mind and ears open.  My last two employers before I went solo gave me great jobs – I met them both through networking.

Sense of Greater Purpose
Maybe it’s an organization to help the less fortunate that attracts you or maybe it’s the local chapter of a business association in your field, but giving your time and energy can lead to a wonderful sense of gratification.  There’s something about the feeling you get when you work on something greater than yourself that is hard to describe… I call it a sense of fulfillment.  Most of us crave this feeling.  These reasons all make up the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) case about volunteering – even this sense of greater purpose reason because it’s still a personal motivator.  After interviewing thousands of people over the last fourteen years, I can state with confidence that most of us want to make a difference in the world in some way.  I’d say that gaining a sense of greater purpose is definitely what’s in it for me.

Okay, so do you find any of these five reasons compelling enough to inspire you to volunteer?  I have one more bonus reason to consider…  Many of us crave a professional job where we can bring all of our passion and talent to the work we do.  Does this mean we should leave our jobs to go searching for another?  Maybe, maybe not.  Just know this.  Somewhere there’s a worthwhile organization that would absolutely love for you to volunteer your talent, and they would most certainly want you to bring your passion with you.

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