Community service not only changes you as a person. It also opens your eyes to new, perhaps more morally resonant career opportunities.
Volunteering in your community is important for a variety of reasons — chief among them being the myriad ways it benefits the community you’re giving back to.
But engaging in your community can also benefit you as a volunteer, namely in the way of your own professional development.
I started partaking in community service back in my junior year of college, when I volunteered at a battered women’s shelter. I worked with patients, sat in on therapy sessions, and did caseload work. I became familiar with the manner in which abusive spouses lock women into cycles of abuse, and I saw just how damaging and paralytic that can be for women.
For me, the experience was life-changing. I was so impacted by my time with these women that it completely altered my career trajectory. Their stories engendered an entirely new passion for me: working with and helping women, so much so that I’m still involved in that work today through things like the Radical Women’s Ministry and Prestige.
See, community service not only changes you as a person. It also opens your eyes to new, perhaps more morally resonant career opportunities — which, if pursued, might just prove inspiring for you as a professional, as they did for me.
But there are other ways, too, that community service benefits you in your life and career. Here are just a few.
1) It helps you network.
Community service can double as a unique form of networking.
Primarily, it aligns you with people who have similar interests and sympathies as you — people who want to better the world.
As it happens, these sorts of people will often make for great allies and teammates in the work you go on to do later in life.
2) It exposes you to a greater diversity of people, talent, and interests.
Just as meeting people who are similarly inspired as you can benefit your career, so can introducing yourself to people who aren’t like you who perhaps have different talents, traits, and interests from yourself.
Exposing yourself to this kind of diversity greatly broadens your perspective on life and on the world.
This is beneficial for obvious personal reasons. But I can also say that, for me, meeting so many different kinds of people through my community service also impacted me as a CEO down the line. Some of the people I met through my service I went on to hire when I started my company.
3) It opens new doors.
Likewise, community service introduces you to new opportunities, whether that’s sitting on the board of a committee, involving yourself with other organizations — like United Way, for example — or assisting another individual in a project they’re working on in their own time.
Engagement — putting yourself out there, exposing yourself to diversity — begets new opportunity which you likely wouldn’t have even known existed before.
4) It teaches you new skills.
In our day-to-day lives, we develop only a small, specific set of skills. If you’re a writer, each day you primarily hone your writing abilities. If you’re a student, you’re mainly working every day at your ability to ingest and synthesize knowledge and text.
But involving yourself in a hands-on way with your community develops an array of abilities and muscles which you otherwise might never tap into. Fundraising is one example, as is event planning, leadership, and community organizing — all of which are critical skills should you want to do something like run your own company one day.
5) It inspires you and can even lead you to a new passion.
Finally, of course, by broadening your perspective and fostering deeper levels of sensitivity for and empathy with the people who share this planet with us, you’ll inevitably change as a person. And you’ll change for the better. You’ll become more caring. And this can manifest in numerous ways, whether through a new passion to feed the homeless by way of a food kitchen you set up downtown, or a shelter you go on to start or lead yourself.
The fact is, it’s impossible to know how engaging in community service will change you, or which new roads it will lead you down. But I’m confident in saying that those roads are likely to prove more interesting and gratifying for you than the ones you’ll travel if you don’t volunteer. Simply because through that kind of experience — by piercing the veneer of the bubble you live in, unintentionally or otherwise — you discover a truer version of yourself.
Although it can be hard to find time to volunteer as a working professional, there are tons of organizations that are sensitive to and flexible for that.
There are organizations out there — in every state and in every city — which operate on a seasonal basis. You can volunteer at a hospital during the holidays. You can assist in disaster relief. You can find organizations in your area which need help for month-long projects.
The bottom line is this: all nonprofits need help, and volunteers are an integral part of how they operate. They rely on people like you and me. Most will accept your assistance however you can provide it.
The important thing for us is to put ourselves out there and to give back.
It’s important for all sorts of intrinsic reasons. But, again, as I can attest to from experience, it’s also about the best thing you can do for yourself personally and professionally.