I wish when I was first starting out in my career that I listened to those who told me that volunteering would lead to more paid opportunities. At the time I was so focused on just making cash – you know for those pesky bills we get every month – that I discounted this advice, then watched as these same people move forward by leaps and bounds.
It turns out that volunteering matters.
Volunteering the fastest way to gain real-life hands on experience. It opens up cool opportunities that may never have come your way otherwise. It can help to position yourself as an industry leader. A former coworker took the volunteering aspect a step further noting that if you are not actively involved in an organization and volunteering your time, there is no point in being a member. By volunteering your time at an event, on a committee and so forth, you meet people. The benefit: the next time you are at an event you already know some people in the room. Smart advise.
For the past few years I’ve been a member of a variety of interest groups and professional associations. As my time was getting pretty stretched, I decided to take stock of the value each provided and the level of investment I was willing to make to truly get involved. I trimmed the proverbial fat and decided to focus my time on the groups/associations that I felt were a good fit for my interests. Of course in my eagerness, I made a rookie volunteering mistake – I had over committed and had let a few things go.
But the point here is that by volunteering my time I can now say that I was a co-organizer and Program Director for a Communications Conference, I’ve worked as a PR Director and as part of a Board of Directors. The experience has expanded my professional network, expanded my experience and importantly, expanded me.
If you’re like I was five years ago, wondering why your career has stalled, pick something you like and get involved already!