Volunteering: Is It the Right Choice for You?
Volunteering is an effort of passion, according to Brad Barbera, who has worked both as a volunteer and a staff executive for a volunteer-driven nonprofit. He has no doubt that volunteering is a passionate undertaking. He feels that you should do only work that you are passionate about, not to enhance your career. Inevitably, family demands, life demands and professional demands will conflict with your volunteer demands, so unless you are passionate about your volunteering choice, you won’t last, Barbera claims. Becoming a quitter could have a negative effect on your career.
Known in her home as the “Queen of Volunteering,” Glenda Standeven firmly believes volunteering is a passion. Standeven has won numerous awards for her volunteering efforts, which began as a way to fulfill the emptiness she felt after losing her leg, hip and pelvis to bone cancer. She says you should only volunteer for jobs that you love, citing two miserable years as a treasurer for an organization she worked for. Find your niche and you can do what you like and serve the organization at the same time. If you like numbers, serve as treasurer. If you like asking for donations, work on the fundraising committee. If you are a good planner, work on the events team. In other words, play to your strengths and not your weaknesses.
Volunteering is a choice many people make because of their upbringing. Parents often take their children with them when they work as volunteers. Children learn firsthand how rewarding volunteering can be. Chantel Adams grew up accompanying her dad, the chaplain of a nursing home, on his visits. In high school and college Adams continued her volunteer work. By the time she got a paying job after college, she couldn’t give it up. Now she works at a leadership academy for children that she started. One of the projects her group developed was a product to help kids with cancer. Adams believes the investment she has made in the kids will ensure that her influence will spread across generations.
Is volunteering a career boost?
According to many, it is. For Rasheda Kamaria, volunteering makes her feel most alive while she is paying it forward. Kamaria has worked with Alternatives for Girls in Detroit for the past 13 years. The organization helps homeless, high-risk girls and young women avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation. Kamaria states that helping these girls isn’t so much a career boost as a life boost.
Renee Tabor, CEO and founder of Metamorphosis in the Metro Chicago area, believes that through volunteering at the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce she has immensely enhanced her career. Volunteering is work but showing up at more events results in more benefits. Because of her volunteer work, Tabor serves on the executive board of directors and is slated for chamber presidency in 2018.
Is it an assist to networking?
When asked if volunteering is beneficial in networking, several respondents answered a resounding “Yes.” Volunteers are sometimes able to turn their volunteering into a full-time job through contacts made while volunteering. Lindsey Conger volunteered with the Dream Builders Youth Project and was hired as a publicist for the organization. Kendra Ramada gave up her job as a New Jersey state’s attorney to follow her Navy husband to California. She started volunteering at an animal rescue shelter and was able to parlay her experience there into a job as a copywriter/social media coordinator with a small start-up. Volunteering may not always lead to paying jobs, but sometimes your network connections can help you get one.
When to say no to volunteering.
For those who are passionate about volunteering and giving back to their communities, saying no doesn’t come easily. Still, it is important for your well-being to say no if you are becoming stressed out with the work. As Standeven puts it, “This is work, and it should not cause you grief, worry, stress or unhappiness. There are paid jobs that will do that! Know your limits. Look at your calendar and decide how much time you are willing to give to a project. Be realistic. If it’s more time than you can spare, either ask for help or turn the offer down and take on a smaller role.”
So, is volunteering for you?
Ultimately, this is a personal decision. Whatever you’re passionate about, there’s an organization waiting for your help. You may have interest in a medical issue because your mother had it, such as breast cancer. Perhaps a friend or relative died in a car accident and you’re interested in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or you care about children and work with Boys/Girls Clubs of America. You have concerns about our returning servicemen and women and seek out Wounded Warrior Project, or you love sports and help Coach across America. These are just some of the organizations waiting for your services. Pay it forward. Volunteer. HLM
Sources: 3point14innovation.com, glendastandeven.com, foreverwe.org and metamorphosis4u.net.