The terms “volunteerism” and “altruism” are considered synonymous by lots of people. And inherently there are the components of helping others and furthering worthy causes when volunteering; but there’s also the often unspoken consideration of “What’s in it for me?”. Even if the “What’s in it for me?” is to simply feel good about yourself – you’re looking to get something out of the volunteer experience.
Since transitioning from a corporate employee to a freelance writing solopreneur, I’ve been a “volunteering fool” (as one of my most revered mentors has labeled me). Do I volunteer so aggressively because I believe in a cause and want to help people? Sure…to a certain extent. But my primary reasons for volunteering are less selfless than they are strategic.
So, how do you get strategic about volunteering? Choose your volunteer endeavors carefully and only take on positions that will help you develop skills and attain knowledge that are critical to your success as a solopreneur. To get you thinking more about it, here are the areas where I’ve leveraged volunteer opportunities to boost my know-how:
- Achieving proficiency with technology tools relative to my industry – As a volunteer with SCORE Lancaster, I’ve gotten hands-on experience with tools & tasks that I might not have taken on otherwise: Constant Contact for email marketing, WordPress site/blog management, web content management in Drupal and management of a Facebook page for a non-profit. Even my involvement at my church as newsletter editor and web content manager have also contributed – albeit to a lesser degree – to enhancing my technology skills.
What technology tools do you need to learn or gain proficiency in to make yourself more marketable?
- Developing leadership skills and business acumen – Again, SCORE Lancaster has been the gold mine where I’ve extracted boulder-sized nuggets of wisdom and experience to make me a better leader and business professional. My role as a mentor to entrepreneurs and small business owners has led me to finding new sources of information and insight that have helped me in my business. My role as VP of Marketing is honing my skills of delegation and staff management as I engage my volunteer Marketing Committee members in projects and activities. And I’m a Girl Scout leader; nothing develops patience and empathy more than working with twenty 7-9 year olds of wildly diverse personalities and temperaments!
Would more experience in managing people or projects give you more clout when dealing with clients, prospective customers, and other professionals within the business community?
- Becoming well-connected within the business community – Since my volunteerism with SCORE began, I’ve made some amazing in-roads with other professional groups as a result. The local chambers of commerce, our local Main Street organization, a prominent women’s networking group, a business roundtable group…connections around every corner.
My purpose isn’t to tell you to volunteer with SCORE, a church, or the Girl Scouts, but rather to demonstrate the point that if you give some thought into what you want to get out of volunteering, you can align yourself with organizations that provide some pay back. By all means, choose to give your time and talent to a cause that you believe in; but also make sure it’s one that will deliver some rewards and give you some skin in the game. After all, if you’re striving to get something from the volunteer experience – won’t you be more engaged and enthusiastic about all you’re giving? What more could an organization ask for? It’s a Win-Win.
Please comment and share how volunteering has helped you professionally.
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