The holiday season is upon us! At this time of year, volunteer opportunities and charity drive solicitations become as ubiquitous for HR professionals as the dreaded holiday office party or annual performance appraisal.
We volunteer often and that’s a good thing. In fact, over 62 million people volunteered in the United States last year according to the latest volunteerism report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That impressive figure includes 27.5 percent of employed individuals compared to just 24.0 percent of unemployed and 21.8 percent of those not in the labor force. In other words, not only do we volunteer a lot, but we are also more likely to be balancing a career on top of it.
But, why do we volunteer? Most answers to that question will revolve around altruistic motivators or because giving back seems like a “nice thing to do.” Let me be clear, I am by no means trying to take away from that very important aspect of volunteerism. However, I’d argue that giving back doesn’t mean that you can’t receive something valuable in return.
Volunteering can help you gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities you need to advance your career. As a volunteer, you will learn and develop new job skills or apply and refine your current skills in unique ways. For example, last week SHRM hosted a live virtual conference that addressed the most pressing human capital challenges on the horizon for 2016 and beyond [also available On Demand, check it out if you haven’t already!]. During the interactive session, Elissa O’Brien (SHRM’s VP of Membership) shared that serving on a local SHRM chapter board is one of the best ways to further develop key competencies related to the HR profession.
Along with professional development, one of the most crucial aspects of a successful career is effective networking. Volunteering can help you establish and deepen personal relationships as you’re almost guaranteed to share an interest or passion with the person working alongside you. By simply expressing your career ambitions with other volunteers, they might share their insightful perspective or open up to you about their own experiences. If you’re really lucky, they may even be able to introduce you to a recruiter or hiring manager within their organization or help you explore other career options within a particular industry or field. Furthermore, your fellow volunteer will now be able to endorse you in a more meaningful way beyond simply being one of their 500+ LinkedIn connections - you have now actually “worked” together.
While I can’t possibly outline all of the many benefits of volunteering in this post alone, I hope it demonstrated the ways in which giving back can help you move forward in your career. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and volunteer!