Any Volunteers? Why Adding Activism To Your Skills Counts As Women Leaders
Desperate and confusing times call for action.
Spending your spare time with a purpose can benefit you as well as those whom you are donating your time and energy to assist. This is not about writing philanthropic checks—this is about hands-on volunteerism.
You may not be taking several weeks off from work to help families and children in crisis at the border, recover fom a natural disaster or rebuild lives, but you can volunteer your time mentoring, leading a community group, registering citizens to vote or helping young girls learn how to code.
By volunteering whether on the ground in physical activity or as a volunteer board member of a non-profit whose mission you endorse, you can gather skills that will enhance your leadership and expand your networks. And it does have an impact on your career.
“Some companies are particularly passionate about volunteering and giving back to the community,” according to Business Tech.
According to Statista, 67.81 million people in the U.S. volunteered in 2017, down from the 10-year high in 2016 of 68.28 million people volunteering in that election year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more women volunteer their time than men. The volunteer rate for men in 2015, was little changed at 21.8 percent while the rate for women was 27.8 percent. Across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demographic characteristics, women continued to volunteer at a higher rate than men, with 35- to 44-year-olds and 45 to 54-year-olds the most volunteer, at about 30 percent.
Whether you choose a large international organization such as Rotary International or Women United of United Way, or a small community based group that asks for a few hours a week of your time, you can choose what fits with your personal life mission and vision.
From a practical standpoint, your volunteer hours can solve problems, alleviate the aftermath of a disaster and offer relief, solace and direction, specific skills and lifechanging advice for those you help. But you can also gain experience that you can add to your resume.
Whether you choose a large international organization such as Red Cross, Rotary International or Women United of United Way, or a small community based group that asks for a few hours a week of your time, you can choose what fits with your personal life mission and vision.
Broaden your perspective personally. Exposure and interaction with groups and individuals outside your everyday experience gives you context on how better to tell with co-workers, colleagues, clients, customers and leaders. “It helps you create a positive impression, makes you more innovative, creative and gives you a range of useful skills,” according to GviUSA. “In Adweek’s article on the state of recruitment, they found that recruiters rank volunteer participation higher than personal presentation, political affiliations and spelling and grammar errors when looking at a candidate’s social presence. The British Council also released a study centered entirely around how international experience benefits individuals and employers.”
Learn how to problem solve and delegate. Chances are there may not be a distinct hierarchy in your volunteer work and everyone needs to pitch in together to come to solutions. “Employers love a candidate with a range of soft skills and luckily, volunteering gives you plenty of those. You are faced with problems on a daily basis, you have to deal with a mix of personalities and all while adjusting to life outside of your comfort zone. This all adds up and helps to improve your teamwork, leadership, problem-solving and people skills,” according to GviUSA.
Expand your network. According to Odyssey, “being able to socialize with people who share the same values and goals as you. There’s nothing better than that. As long as you’re putting in the work while having fun, you’re making the community better one step at a time.”
Use your skills in new ways. Perhaps you have always wanted to try web design and create digital content, but it is outside your job description in your paid position. So in your volunteer time, offer services you love to do and perform these tasks for a greater good. This goes along with the power journey describes by Gloria Feldt, Take The Lead co-founder and president in her 9 Leadership Power Tools. In Power Tool # 3, Feldt advises, “Use What You’ve Got. What you need is almost always there. See it and use it with courage. Because power unused is power useless.” And if you use your talents and power to make a difference, it will.
From your local school to the largest global organizations, volunteers are using their power to change the status quo, including celebrities who are pitching in, like Beyonce, Meghan Markle, Ariana Grande, and so many more. Perhaps this is the year you can join the ranks of volunteer do-gooders in order to make a difference.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com