I had the best day yesterday. I volunteer with a canine rescue group – Monty’s Home. I spent the day at the Dog Club of Wilmington’s Second Annual Holiday Party. There was food, live music, pictures with Santa, dogs – ranging in size from a teacup Chihuahua to a 130-pound Great Dane – and vendors, selling dog-related wares.
As you’ll see on the Web site, we offer several products for fundraising. We don’t’ miss many opportunities to get out, sell product and spread the word about our programs. So that’s what I did on Saturday afternoon – helped raise money for a charitable organization, networked a little and honed marketable job skills. Wait. What did she say? Volunteer, network and marketable job skills, all in the same sentence???
You can check out the Monty’s Home Web site to find out more about the group. I could rattle on for hours about all the good things this organization does, but since a big part of my volunteer contribution is to write for the Web Site, I’ll send you there to peruse at your leisure. It’ll be like reading my words, only not here.
OK – back to the topic at hand. What does volunteering have to do with networking and building employment skills? Volunteering with “common cause” organizations reaching across industry or career boundaries exposes you to people from all walks of life. People you probably wouldn’t have met; or, you may have met them, but not in the relaxed casual atmosphere of a school bake sale or hanging crepe paper for a homeless shelter’s Christmas party or like me, out petting dogs and educating pet-parents.
Helping builds common bonds. It’s the great equalizer. Titles are shed; defenses drop. Pretenses evaporate. People relax. The common cause becomes an icebreaker for starting almost any conversation.
The person helping you blow up balloons for a fundraiser may play golf with the HR manager for a perspective employer or might have connections to the company holding the key to your “dream job.” Someone knows someone who knows someone and poof – you’ve landed an interview and then the job — all because you decided to spend some time giving back.
Don’t get me wrong. Don’t decide to volunteer for the sake of networking. You’ll end up resenting the time you spend there. Do it out of passion for the cause. But don’t be so wrapped up in the cause you miss an opportunity to perform a little soft sell on youself. What better way to demonstrate marketable employment skills than to be a consistent, reliable, involved volunteer.
When I started working with Monty’s Home and the Pawsitive Partners Prison Program, I did it to benefit a cause. But, I’ll tell you like I tell the group president. I absolutely love what I’m doing. I am more than thrilled my efforts help the organization, but I am also benefitting and that’s part of why I’m involved too.
Because it’s a animal organization, through my affiliation, I’ve picked up pet sit clients. Because we garner media sponsors for our annual expo and I went along to a meeting with our local paper, I had an article written about my rez writing business. Because of the article, the reporter, Elizabeth King Humphrey –Wilmaville blogger and The Write Elizabeth – and I still keep in touch. Since she’s gone freelance, we’ve established an informal solo-preneurs support system and bounce ideas off of each other occasionally. And that’s only three benefits that jump to mind immediately.
Imagine whom you’ll meet or what doors you’ll open through volunteering. And you know what? This only scratches the surface of the benefits. We’ll talk about marketable job skills in the next post.