Volunteerism: What's in it for me?

This weekend over 130 high school sophomores will descend upon the Capitol region to participate in the Louisiana Hugh O’Brien Youth (HOBY) Leadership program. I was never a HOBY kid. In fact, I have never heard of it until my friend and program chair invited me to volunteer as a facilitator in 2009. Since then I have volunteered in some capacity. It is a fabulous program that inspires future leaders to make a difference in their communities. The past couple of years, I have been a panelist on a panel titled “Volunteerism: What’s in it for me?” The panel usually consists of nonprofit professionals talking about how their own volunteer experiences lead to their careers in the sector or how volunteering at their organization can be a fulfilling experience. In 2015, I decided to give the kids a different take on the subject and went for the literal and selfish meaning of “what’s in it for me.”

You have probably seen the Friends episode where Joey volunteers on the PBS telethon so he can get some screen time. Joey successfully argues to Phoebe “selfless good deeds do not exist,” making this one of the few times in a ten year run that the Joey character is the smartest of the six. If Friends was still on the air, Joey could use the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey to further drive his point. The recently released survey focused on individuals currently employed who have direct or indirect influence over hiring decisions. The survey found that an overwhelming majority of the respondents- 82%- were more likely to hire someone who lists volunteer experience. What is amazing is that only 30% of the resumes received by the respondents actually have volunteer experience listed.

So what kind of volunteerism is most beneficial for your career advancement? Well if you want to be seen as a leader, skill based volunteerism is your best bet. This means using your professional skills or training to advance the nonprofit’s mission, for example, lawyers, accountants and communications professionals volunteering their skill sets.

According to the survey results:

What’s in it for the individual?

  • If you are volunteering, put it on your resume! It will make you stand out in your job search.

  • If you are not getting the professional opportunities to expand your leadership or professional skills, you can create your opportunities by volunteering.

What’s in it for the company?

  • A corporate volunteer program can be a successful part of professional development, especially for younger professionals.

  • Employees and candidates have expanded communication and leadership skills.

So back to my HOBY story, instead of talking about how volunteerism is good for the soul/ community/ etc (and it is, I swear), I talked about how I used my volunteerism to help advance my career. I had applied for a next-level job in a nonprofit and was told I didn’t have certain programmatic skill sets needed to be a successful candidate. Knowing full well that I was never going to get the opportunity to develop those skills in my current position, I decided to create my own opportunity by volunteering. I took an issue I cared about deeply and helped develop a program around it, work with others to find funding for it and learned to manage other volunteers in the process. Since starting my own business, the success I had in my volunteer “career” has helped me land clients who have needed similar help. I use my experiences to help my clients navigate the process and succeed.

Volunteerism: what’s in it for me? Everything.

To see the 2016 survey results visit www.deloitte.com.

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