For full-time professionals, the idea of volunteering can feel like a pipe dream, something that only retirees or high school kids looking to beef up their CV have time to engage in. But volunteer work doesn’t have to become a second job, and if you believe in what you’re doing, volunteer ‘work’ won’t feel like work at all. Two months ago I started volunteering for Out for Australia (OFA) – an organisation that seeks to support and mentor aspiring LGBTIQ professionals as they navigate their way through the early stages of their career – and even in that short time I can see the benefits of volunteering my time.
1. You get to meet great people
Sure, there are self-serving reasons for volunteering (and I mention some later), but for the most part, people volunteer with the best intentions, wanting to give back to their community. I’ve made a huge amount of good friends through OFA (both before and after volunteering) and they have stuck because we have been united by a common goal. Also, despite a simple hierarchy present at OFA (an organisational necessity), one feels united and equal in achieving something good – which is not something you always feel in a paid job.
2. It gets you out of your bubble
Social media has only made it easier for people to be locked into a narrow and biased social circle, informing a similarly narrow and unchallenged worldview. Even though OFA functions primarily in the world of mentoring LGBTIQ professionals, which to the layperson might seem quite niche, within that world, there is a vast range of industries, genders, and sexualities represented, far larger than that of my friendship or work circles. This gives me insights into a world that has often felt only adjacent to my own. Really it just makes you a well-rounded person, who is better equipped to live in the real world.
3. It forces you to put your money where your mouth is
Organisations that run predominantly through volunteer bodies are notoriously difficult to run well. People’s available hours will vary based on what else is going on in their lives, there’s a high turnover of volunteers which means processes and intellectual capital are often lost and you won’t always find the adequate skills you need to run the operation in the skillset of the volunteers. So if you see a non-profit/charity/volunteer organisation that you feel you could influence positively, then you should join because these issues don’t fix themselves and it’s likely that your skillset will be able to markedly improve the outlook of the business in a significant way.
4. It allows you to utilise and expand your skills
Every job has certain required skillsets and responsibilities. Even though we have a lot of freedom at The Conscience Organisation for training and to pursue new and varied roles, breaking out of your current role and responsibilities is often easier within a low-expectation environment like a volunteer organisation; freed from the strictures of billable hours, KPIs and defined roles. For example, my current role digs deep into social media, while my volunteer role is more broadly a communications role which utilises my social experience but also lets me touch upon PR, event management, and email marketing.
5. It can drive your career forward
Meeting friendly, driven, like-minded people, being exposed to a wide range of people from a wide range of industries, honing and building on your skillsets and helping to drive outcomes for an organisation. All four of these things will help you in your career, whether it’s through your ability to network with other driven people or showcasing your ability to grow businesses, proactively improve your skillset and juggle fulltime work and extra-curriculars to future employers.
The Conscience Organisation operates with the belief that creating a strong business and building a better world is not the conflicting goal- they are both essential ingredients for long-term success. Working for an organisation that embeds social good into the day-to-day allows my colleagues and I to adopt an active role in making our world a better place to work and live. It also means we are constantly part of the social good conversation.