Accelerating Your Career Through Community Involvement

Accelerating Your Career Through Community Involvement

By: Abbas Virji
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The value of a community is immeasurable, and there is a lot that you can do to give back. There are also benefits that you receive that may not seem readily apparent. For example, donating money can result in improved services that you and others you know may access, and volunteering can provide you with some valuable community connections, and learn new skills for example. How is that possible? You’re about to find out…

Develop New Connections

Engaging and volunteering with your community allows you to build connections with individuals you may have not had the opportunity to connect with otherwise. Having these contacts can often lead to a broader professional network, a contact for a potential career opportunity, or perhaps even someone to serve as a mentor. There are really unlimited possibilities, and all it takes is some initiative on your part. Your connection could end up being on your selection committee at a job interview, so it’s important to make the most of being in your community. Outside of the professional aspect, you also have the opportunity to acquaint yourself with the people you live around and to know what’s going in your community. This can be a relaxing way after school or work to get to know more about the people in your community at a more personal level while also being active in your engagement.

In addition to conversing with people in your community, volunteering also shows that you care about the well being of your community, and that you do something proactively to promote its continued stability.

Give Your Resume a Spontaneous Spark

Going above and beyond the call to action is something employers love to see, and volunteering in your community shows that you are a committed, responsible member of society. Giving back with organizations outside of school also shows that you are a well-rounded individual with experience in a variety of settings. If you are including a volunteer-related experience on your resume, try using the actual title of the position instead of simply writing ‘volunteer experience.’ In addition to giving the potential employer a better idea of what you did with your volunteer time, you may also gain more credibility due to the more accurate wording of your experience.

Pick Up New Skills

So you have a bigger network and some great titles to post on your resume. What’s next? Well, it turns out that in many cases, volunteering in your community may offer you an opportunity to try something completely new. For example, you might get to lead a class of elementary school students after school in a field trip, or something similar (which could be beneficial if you are planning on being a teacher). Employers are always expecting their employees to learn new things, and what better way to show that you’re capable of trying new things than to experience a variety of new volunteer opportunities (and if you have a specific skill you’d like to flex in a volunteer capacity, make sure to create a tailored search on GetInvolved!).

Create New Opportunities For Yourself

You also get to learn new skills through volunteering (e.g. project management for an event), which can be important to add to your resume as an indicator of what you are able to accomplish for a job you may have applied for. The skills you learn through volunteering in your community can often lead to new opportunities you may have not imagined possible, as the scenarios can be similar to what would be expected of you in a workplace environment. Additionally, if the volunteer work you’re doing is something you’re passionate about, it can often have a more rewarding effect while possibly ascertaining your applied skills in a potential career opportunity.

Discover What You Love

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, being involved and volunteering in your community can help plan you imagine what you may want to do once you graduate. Through volunteering, you can find what you believe are your biggest strengths and weaknesses, clarify your interests and learn more about your values – all factors that play into career decision-making. Volunteering also provides a good ‘practical trial’ for career options, so you can see how you would perform in the real world and then compare the experience to what you would do in a professional capacity.

Overall, volunteering and being involved in your community is indispensable to your future. Whether it’s helping man a social media account, hosting a dodge-ball tournament or coordinating a fundraising drive,, there are many ways your experience can help you out in a professional capacity. All it takes is a bit of initiative and some genuine interest to help jumpstart your career.

Beyond the Article

• Check out SFU’s very own Volunteer Services department, complete with Facebook and Twitter pages (and their blog)!

Volunteer Canada has some neat resources to let you research more about community engagement and much more…

*Lead image: creative-commons licensed photo by sebastien.barre

Posted on January 16, 2014