WHAAAT? Yes, some of the best reasons to volunteer are selfish ones helping you fulfill your own desires and goals.
Let me explain the ways your unpaid work helps you:
Networking. Usually, we consider successful networking to be going to events, making connections, and perhaps meeting someone over coffee. Yet, the person we meet with will have only a superficial understanding of who we are and what we can do. When you volunteer and serve on a committee, your fellow committee members work alongside you and gain a deeper understanding. They’ll discover not only your talents and skills but also how dependable you are, how honest and forthright you are, how diplomatic you are, how flexible you are, how creative you are. When you apply for a job and need a good reference, they’ll be there to give you one. And they may be the connection that leads you to your next job.
Learning. At PRSA Oregon, we encourage our board and committee members to come up with creative ways to serve members and build a stronger chapter. For one of our co-chairs, that means trying out an innovative approach to social media – something she could not do in her day job as it would be deemed “too risky.” With the experience of how it worked for PRSA Oregon, she can go back to her organization with data and know-how and gain approval to implement it.
Support. Most of us in communications work in small teams or as the only person in the organization to manage PR. We don’t have peers to talk with about a challenge or issue we are confronting. As a volunteer, you are encouraged to reach out to fellow volunteers and talk it through. They may have dealt with your challenge and have sage words of advice. At the very least, they will be an empathic ear, helping you think through the pros and cons of various actions.
So, what are your career and life goals? Where do you want to work? Where do you want to live? What excites you? What interests you? Are you wondering what the next level of your career should be? Are you considering changing careers?
This inner reflection helps you to see who you need to connect with, what you want to explore – and that helps you find the right volunteer opportunity – for the best reason: you.
Look at what the organization is doing and not doing to fulfill its mission. Where could you contribute and try out a new idea or program that you want to learn?
Look at the board and committee members, where they work and what they do. Choose committees where you will be working alongside people who are close to your own goals.
We think of volunteering as an altruistic activity. But there should be a selfish side to why you give your time and talent. For an industry association like PRSA, this is particularly true. You can and should be selfish and think about what you want. It may just be the lift you need!
Judy Asbury, APR, Fellow PRSA, serves as PRSA Oregon Chapter President. She is the Assistant Dean, Communications and External Relations, at Lewis & Clark Law School, where she oversees all law school communications and manages the school’s development team.