Perhaps you made a New Year’s resolution to help others. Maybe things are going well in your company and you’ve decided to give back. Whatever the reason, it’s a good time to look at volunteering. What you may not know is that volunteering can help you with your job, too.
A number of organizations—60 percent, according to Giving in Numbers, a 2015 report from CECP on corporate philanthropy—actually encourage volunteerism among staff, even during work hours, writes Benjamin Snyder in Fortune. Deloitte offers employees an unlimited number of paid hours to volunteer, while companies such as Autodesk and Salesforce pay for 48 hours of volunteering a year.
Organizations support volunteering for employees because they are likely to work on different problems, see new things, and pick up new ideas and skills, suggests Todd Sander, vice president of research and executive director of the Center for Digital Government for e.Republic Inc.
The classic benefit of volunteering for your career is networking, because it puts you in contact with all sorts of other people who are interested in some of the same things you are. “Generally, volunteer opportunities have a pretty friendly, low-pressure environment,” writes Kat Boogaard in The Muse. “This means that you can have genuine, engaging conversations with people who share your interests—without that awkward air of expectations. Chances are, you’ll make more meaningful connections doing this than you ever have around the appetizer table at a networking event.”
The benefits of networking through volunteerism can work the other way, too, by attracting people—especially Millennials—to work at your firm. “Despite Millennials’ reputation for being self-absorbed, Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2014 revealed that 63 percent donate to charities, and 43 percent volunteer or belong to community organizations,” writes Sonya Stinson in Forbes. “And of those who rarely or never volunteer, 61 percent reported that an employer’s commitment to its community would play a role in their decision to accept or decline a job offer.”
A group of people from your organization can all volunteer together as a bonding exercise. “Many companies structure their [employee volunteer program] as team-building exercises, and these volunteer opportunities are remarkable because they allow employees to work together while they are performing their volunteer efforts,” according to the website Women on Business. “Not only does this make a difference in society, it builds camaraderie among fellow coworkers.”
- 82 percent of its surveyed members want to volunteer their time and skills
- 41 percent of LinkedIn hiring managersconsider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience when evaluating candidates
- 20 percent of hiring managers in the U.S.agree they have hired a candidate because of their volunteer work experience
Volunteering doesn’t have to mean working in a soup kitchen or building houses for Habitat for Humanity, if that’s not your thing. There’s plenty of ways you can volunteer that make use of your IT skills. Organizations such as socialcoding4good and the Free Software Foundation can help connect you with groups and projects that can use IT expertise.
Not a coder? You can still get involved through your expertise in writing, translation, or design. Or volunteer to work at an open source conference. In addition, a number of organizations look for people to get involved in helping them refurbish hardware for schoolchildren or nonprofits, which can also help build your own skills as well as help others.
You may also find that volunteering gives you the opportunity to learn or practice a new skill that you can then bring back to your job or use to jump-start a new career. “When you volunteer, you can try your hand at tons of different skills and challenges, without any threat to your reputation or current job standing,” Boogaard writes. “Whether you’ve always wanted to dip your toes into the world of coding or you’ve been meaning to learn a little bit more about marketing, you should have no trouble finding a volunteer opportunity that allows you to do so.”
In addition, volunteering can help fill in any gaps in your resume and help you demonstrate your cultural fit to an organization, according to ProStaff, an employment firm. “Many companies are placing a greater emphasis on social responsibility, partly as a way to attract and retain employees,” the company writes. “Over time, this social responsibility becomes a part of company culture. With volunteer work on your resume, it helps show that you’re a cultural fit for the organization.”
Volunteering can help your career indirectly, too. For example, if your current job isn’t completely fulfilling, you can fuel your passion through volunteering, writes Tai Goodwin on the career site Careerealism. “If your current job is not your ideal work, volunteering at something you enjoy is an alternative source of the passion you can’t get from your job right now,” she notes. Volunteering can even improve your mental and physical health.
Convinced? Fortunately, there are lots of resources for how to set up your own corporate volunteering program. Organizations such as Points of Light and Idealist offer step-by-step advice. So get out there, and start volunteering so you can see the benefits to your own career.
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