Volunteering and professional networking may appear as two polar opposites, but in fact the go together perfectly. Learning how to perfectly combine the two can help you master networking and gain the most out of your experience both professionally and personally. Here are four tips to maximize your experience!
Combine your goals: Look for volunteer opportunities that will also help you achieve your personal/career goals. For example, if you want a career working in children’s education and development, pick a similar volunteer opportunity, such as reading to children, or tutoring them in a subject in which you excel.
Build your skills: Networking builds communication skills. Volunteering can help improve skills in service roles and leadership positions. Volunteering doesn’t just benefit your future; it can also give you immediate benefits right now. The foundation of building a network is giving; giving your time and your skills. As we learn to give of our time and talents to those around us, we learn that our greatest rewards are the relationships we develop in the process.
Volunteer with more than one organization: It’s not necessary for all your volunteer opportunities to be within your current or desired professional industry as long as they help you connect to your community. Professional development clubs, such as Rotary clubs or working with the Red Cross, or coaching a youth sports team can also help you broaden your horizons beyond your profession. Interesting and well-connected professionals are everywhere, especially within your community. Industry leaders are involved in community programs. What better way to get to know leaders than to volunteer alongside them? The number of groups you join isn’t important, but you must be more than just another name on the membership roll.
Work with the right people: When you think of volunteering, it’s likely you can easily muster a list of charities or causes that are more than worthy of support. However, make sure you don’t overlook the opportunities available in your own professional organizations. Whether you’re a member of a professional association, or joined a group for minority entrepreneurs or small business owners, you’ll find plenty of professional networking possibilities by volunteering to join or even chair a committee. Working within your established network can help strengthen your relationship with those around you, and also help you make new connections.