Why Volunteering at a NonProfit is Good for Your Heart and Your Career

A few days ago, a colleague who’s in between jobs emailed me. She had viewed my profile on LinkedIn and requested an introduction to one of my connections. We’ve all learned by now that if you are looking for the next career opportunity, a virtual connection can potentially turn into a relationship—or at least a cup of coffee. So how do you get to that next level?

Skip the Small Talk

As with dating, the search for a perfect career match can be helped by taking a chance on love. Ok, that may seem to be a bit of a stretch, but think about it. What if you start from what you love–your passion? In both work and personal settings, it’s the emotional connections that sustain. So where can you readily find these in the professional world?

Nonprofit organizations are where people put their passion to work. Ask a volunteer why they’re involved in the mission of the nonprofit, and you will assuredly get an answer in some form of love story. Meeting other professionals who share your passion for a cause gives you a head start on forming valuable connections. Step one: select a nonprofit that you interests you. What’s next?

It’s Just Lunch

To quote Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss in the movie What About Bob?, start with baby steps. I recommend engaging first with the events committee. Here’s why:

1. It’s not a long term commitment. An event has a definitive start and finish. Depending on the quality of your experience, you may choose to either exit or stay engaged with the organization once the event is over.

2. You’re making a good first impression. Volunteering at a nonprofit event is a great way to meet people of various professional levels from different industries. You take networking to a deeper level when you’re able to personally connect with prospects from the get-go.

3. Choose from a wide menu selection. Event planning presents you with a variety of volunteer roles, not to mention the variety of events that nonprofits put together such as a gala dinner, walk, conference, fundraiser and more. At least one will match your interest where you can showcase your strengths and develop new skill sets.

4. It’s ok to be the first to call. In fact, you have every legitimate excuse to follow up with everyone you meet–staff, volunteers and guests–and take the conversation to the next level. Lunch anyone?

5. You’ll be glad you did it. Seeing how the event brings people together—to make a difference in other people’s lives—will leave you feeling good and wanting to do more.

Follow Your Heart

The most valuable career lesson I’ve learned through the years is to always follow your heart. It will guide you toward personal connections that will make a difference in your life. And that ultimately affects your career.

Pon Angara is Director of Barkada Circle®, a team of artists mentoring nonprofits on how to tell more compelling stories about their missions. Pon helps their leaders use the power of storytelling to spark bold and innovative ideas that will bring their organizations to the next level. He has delivered keynotes and workshops on storytelling at several association conferences and foundation seminars. When he’s not working with stories, Pon searches for his next great foodie find! He’s always ready to take you to the best Filipino restaurants in Chicago.

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