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17th October 2011

Walking the Talk – 3 ways that strategic volunteering can help advance your career

by Shannon Houde

When asked why they want to work in sustainability, 98% of my career coaching clients say “to make a difference.”  Some word it as “to have positive impact,” “to create a future for our children,” “to save the planet,” or even simply, “to give back.” As values-based practitioners it’s important for us to “walk the talk” in our personal, as well as professional lives.  Whatever your personal motivation is for feeling drawn to this expanding field of sustainability, you need to ask yourself: How do I prove my commitment to sustainability outside of work?  I call it strategic volunteering – volunteering which leverages your core skills, allows you to achieve tangible impacts and allows you to build upon a network.

Here are three ways that giving back through volunteering can help you advance your career while also making a difference.

1 – Build your skills.

Make sure you pick a volunteer role that leverages your core skills.  Question how painting a wall at a school will translate onto a CV.  If it doesn’t, perhaps find a way to help organise events, do the bookkeeping or design the organisation’s website.  Make sure how the charity is using your time directly links to skills you want to build and market on a CV.  You will make the most difference doing what you are good at.

2 – Create measureable impacts.

Volunteering requires a time commitment out of your non-work life, so make sure that you are realising measurable outputs that can be translated into accomplishment statements on your CV.  Set yourself simple KPIs that you can work toward, like “helped X unemployed 18-year-olds open a bank account” (if you work in the financial sector).  Pick a charity organisation whose mission is aligned with interests, and one that you would like to work with for three to five years.  Outputs (and impacts) don’t happen overnight.

3 – Expand your network.

Joining an organisation as a volunteer is a uniquely thankful job.  The organisation will be grateful as will its recipients.  But you too will walk away with more than just the feeling that you made a difference.  You will have also created a network of likeminded friends/colleagues who want to help each other succeed.  Get fellow volunteers’ contact details (and connect with them through LinkedIn and other social networking sites), and be sure to keep in touch.  This is a great way to be strategic about networking while having impact.

This article originally appeared on Acre

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17th October 2011

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