This November, we are taking a look at some ways to look outside the box and hopefully get inspired by both the everyday and the atypical when it comes to work. We kicked off the month last week by talking with Krissi Barr, CEO of Barr Corporate Success, a business consulting company specializing in strategic planning, executive coaching, and behavioral assessments. Barr, along with her husband Dan, is the co-author of The FIDO Factor: How to Get a Leg Up at Work. The book’s core message is that by utilizing the same core values that dogs have (Faithful, Inspirational, Determined, and Observant), we can become more effective leaders at work.
This week, we keep going beyond the normal boundaries of the places we normally go when we want to get re-inspired at work, or even make a career change. Make no mistake, job websites and your LinkedIn feed are outstanding places to find a potential job and to network, but this month, we want to concentrate on putting away the phones and closing our laptops. We want to find motivation for a possible career change a different way. We are looking for sources of inspiration to keep us fueled at work that we may not see every day. Or, we might see them every day, but if we look at them with a little different perspective, we may just find what we’re looking for.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, many of us have thoughts of volunteering our time to help a worthwhile organization in our community. While this endeavor can and should be rooted in altruism, there’s no reason why we can’t leverage our time volunteering to help us in our careers. How do we do that? There are several different ways - some obvious, others not so much. So let’s go over them one by one:
Volunteering can help us develop current skills and learn new ones – For those of us whose resumes are a little light in the experience area (soon-to-be college grads…do you hear me?), volunteering is a fantastic way for you to learn the kind of skills you can use in any job. Maybe you’re put in charge of a meals-on-wheels team or you are helping to organize a shipment of clothes being sent to an area hit by a natural disaster.
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For those that already have a certain marketable skill, volunteering is a chance to use it in a new way. For example, someone who markets roofing supplies can help promote a charity’s fundraising opportunities.
We can explore careers without job hopping – No matter where we are in our work lives – just starting out, comfortably numb in the middle, or maybe we’ve just retired from one job and now we can finally start a new career or business that we’ve always wanted to - volunteering allows you to try on different roles and tackle various issues without job hopping. How? Here’s an example of what a charitable organization might look for in a communications coordinator: “In this position, you’ll support the communications team in various responsibilities including developing and implementing a social media strategy, communicating with various media outlets, community outreach and awareness, coordinating event planning, and aiding in fundraising efforts with our donor families. You will have the opportunity to develop and heighten our social media tactics and present suggestions to the team.”
Volunteerism is more than just a “feel good” activity – A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article discussed a United Healthcare study that “quickly put that [feel good] idea to rest and instead revealed a genuine business case for developing volunteer programs. Employers who establish formal volunteering programs for their employees benefit in several important and distinct ways. From an employee perspective, current employees who volunteer through their workplace have a more positive feeling toward their employer and report a strengthened bond with co-workers.”
We all suffer from burn-out from time to time. We may think the grass is greener somewhere else. We may haven even found ourselves checking the job websites on a daily basis lately, especially during lunch in the breakroom while Janice cooks her leftover fish in the microwave and stinks up the joint. My point is this, volunteering through work may be a way to help you bond with co-workers and your boss. It can lead to a new, fresh perspective. And if we are truly looking for other job opportunities, then having volunteer experience on our resumes is always a good thing.
Volunteering can expand your network – When you volunteer, you typically don’t work in a vacuum. You come in contact with lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds. You may be packing boxes of canned food next to a head of HR who’s looking for new hires, or perhaps you’re pricing items at a resale shop with a marketing coordinator that knows of a position opening up in her office and you would be the perfect fit. When you’re volunteering you never know who you’ll meet. Try your best to make it a good experience and you may walk away with helping yourself to a new gig while you’re helping others. Case in point, my first job out of college was as a special events coordinator with a local charitable organization. One of my colleagues got her job after she volunteered for one of their major fundraising events. She had volunteered for the same event all throughout her college career, showing her organizational skills and her passion for the cause. When she was about to graduate, she got a call from the local HR person who had worked with her when she was volunteering about a job opportunity. She took the job, which started her career in event planning. Today, she runs her own successful event planning business in Dallas, and she even has clients that she can tie back to her time as a volunteer almost 20 years ago. She still credits her experience volunteering with starting her career off on the right path.
So, as the holidays roll around again this year, maybe it’s time to think differently and volunteer. The person you might help out the most is you.