Don’t Overlook the Networking and Development Opportunities Presented by Volunteering10 October, 2018
Don’t Overlook the Networking and Development Opportunities Presented by Volunteering
Jim Andrews, Founding Member, Board of Directors, HomeField Alliance
Founding The phrase “doing well while doing good” is a common (perhaps shopworn) descriptor for corporate philanthropic and cause marketing efforts, but it applies equally to individuals looking to expand their business and social networks.
We all know that participating on nonprofit boards and other types of volunteer service rounds out a resume and is generally something current and future employers smile upon. It also, of course, is a way to make a positive contribution to your community and/or a cause and add an additional layer of meaningful purpose to your life beyond work and family. But on top of all of that, volunteering is a great vehicle for network building and professional development.
Although joining networking organizations within your chosen field (such as HomeField Alliance!) and participating in industry-specific online groups, discussions, events, etc. will continue to be your go-to channels, getting involved with charitable, civic and other nonprofits—large or small—provides both immediate and long-term benefits for early- and mid-career professionals who are looking to advance their careers either with or outside of their current employers.
For example, my experience as a volunteer and board member for several nonprofit organizations—including 13 years on the board of About Face Theatre, the award-winning LGBTQ-focused theater company—has earned me:
- Professional connections. Fellow board members, season subscribers, local media representatives and executives with organizations the theater partnered with were able to learn about the business I was in through our conversations and meetings, with quite a few becoming prospective or actual clients, and others reaching out with job opportunities.
- Unexpected contacts. By listing my volunteer activities in my professional bio, I had a number of people at conferences and other events introduce themselves to me because they had an interest in theater as well. Many became valuable professional contacts, but most probably would not have struck up a conversation without the common bond of our passion for our non-work activities.
- New skills. When I first became involved with About Face over 20 years ago, my professional role did not involve any P&L responsibilities, thus budgets, forecasts, cash-flow statements, etc. were all foreign to me as a marketing strategy and communications specialist. But board membership of a nonprofit quickly immerses even the mathematically challenged in the world of finance and the principles of accounting—knowledge I was grateful to have as I became more senior in my professional career and such expertise was integral to success.
- Social network. Don’t overlook the opportunity volunteering presents to make new friends and even romantic partners. Some of my best friends today are the people I volunteered with 20 years ago.
Networking is a numbers game, and by going outside of the conventional industry-specific and professional networking channels, you increase the odds of making connections that will pay off in any number of ways.
For a further look at this topic, I recommend this article as well:
5 Career Boosting Reasons You Should Volunteer (In Addition to the Fact That It Makes You a Good Person)