How Smart Leaders Reach Out

by Cheri L. Swales,

Dedication to your company is not the only thing you need to consider when developing your career. Volunteering can be an important part of your leadership skills repertoire. Networking is the best way to enhance your career status, and volunteering is one of the best networking opportunities.

Why Do People Volunteer?

People volunteer in the community for a variety of reasons. According to The National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, which polled Canadian volunteers, people volunteer:

  • To help a cause in which they personally believe (96 percent).

  • To use their skills and experiences (78 percent).

  • Because they have been personally affected or know someone who has been affected by the cause the organization supports (67 percent).

  • To explore their own strengths (54 percent).

  • To fulfill religious obligations or beliefs (29 percent).

  • Because their friends volunteer (25 percent).

  • To improve their job opportunities (22 percent).

  • Some additional reasons business people volunteer:

  • To do something interesting and new.

  • To promote their businesses.

  • To network with influential people.

  • To practice leadership skills.

  • To become part of the community.

  • To be recognized as a business leader who gives back.

  • Because they feel unfulfilled in their current jobs.

Whatever the reason for volunteering, it is a good idea for your career to roll up your sleeves and get in there to help.

What to Consider

Look at your interests. Are you drawn to working with children or adults? Do you have a particular cause in which you're interested?

Evaluate your availability. Determine when you have time available and how much time you can give. Many board meetings for nonprofit organizations are held early in the morning or in the evening so you won't have to miss work.

Consider the visibility. If you are looking for high visibility or want to work with influential business people, then you may want to serve on a board or commission.

Networking as a Volunteer

Once you are serving, it is important to observe proper volunteer etiquette. Smart leaders know it is offensive to attend a mixer and go from person to person smiling and shaking hands. Be sincere in your efforts and avoid blatant self-promotion.

Savvy leaders realize you have to build trust and credibility with other board members and volunteers before reaping the rewards. Volunteering means more than just showing up at meetings. Share your expertise to help the organization reach its goals, or volunteer to learn a new skill so both you and the agency are rewarded.

Find the Right Opportunity

Look at the needs in your community, and think about your skills and talents. Then create your own special connection through a service activity that is right for you.

King George VI said, "The highest of distinctions is service to others." It may also be a good way to move your career into high gear.

by Cheri L. Swales, Monster Contributing Writer

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