I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty busy schedule as an expat, and I’m sure you can relate. When I’m not working, I cherish my free time with family, my friends, and especially enjoying some “me” time. So what don’t I have time for? Volunteering. Whether it’s in the community, at a different business, or just helping out a professional online, offering my time and effort for free doesn’t sound super appealing. I have to devote that time to pushing on with my career and succeeding! Right?
News flash, hang onto your seats: You can’t succeed without volunteering. Your efforts will be hugely handicapped if you dodge this opportunity, and that’s because volunteering actually helps you as much as you help it.
1. Opens your mind
Being successful requires you to be open minded enough to see opportunities and make changes as they come your way, and volunteering will put you in a lot of unique situations with unique people.
At work, you might just get the job done and then skip off to Netflix, but when volunteering, you’re pretty much forced to pay attention and see things from a different view instead of just moving on. You may have never struck up conversation with that marketing expert, tried organizing files in a strange way, or thought about revolutionizing the way you approach your career after hearing about a painful failure without volunteering.
2. Makes some unexpected but useful connections
Success is all about networking. Look at anyone successful that you want to emulate and you’ll notice that they’re never alone. Seriously, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto – and he had “lone” in his name for Pete’s sake.
The magic trick (if there is one) to being successful is getting in touch with people – a lot of different people – and volunteering offers you just that. You may never have run into that architect unless you were both volunteering at a community center, but now when you take on your awesome new comic book artist career and need some advice on designing a convincing city, guess who you’re going to call?
3. Teaches you skills for different fields
You can’t reinvent the wheel, but there’s more than one good way to build a wheel. One only has to walk into a tattoo shop and then walk into a printing store to see that different fields work in very different manners.
While you may turn down posting a nudy sailor picture in your office after a volunteering stint at a tattoo shop (that would be the weirdest daycare center ever), you may discover that changing your work station to be more open makes you accomplish more. Or that a consultancy agency has really great book-keeping techniques. Or that multitasking at a restaurant is a valuable skill to have. By trying multiple things, you can pile all those advantages together into a super awesome Wonder Woman package.
4. Lets you explore new passions
I don’t know about you, but if I think about taking on a career, I’m viewing it as a long-term commitment and something I’ll be owning up to on my resume. A volunteering position offers a more casual approach to exploring a job. Now you have a gift: a prime opportunity to explore your passions. While you may never have taken on a job in marketing, after volunteering for a few weeks, you could find that you absolutely love it. Or you could find you hate it with a fiery passion and move on to another volunteer position with no strings attached (and that’s really the best part). If you decide you’re passionate about that new field, you’ve just found a passion-career to add to your list of options!
5. Teaches you what other fields expect
Think of it like free college (for you American Wonder Women, you know how nice that would be). You’re learning about how these other fields operate, where their pain points are (ones that you can help relieve, not manipulate. Unless they deny you the Wi-Fi password or stiff you on the bill. In which case, happy hunting), and what they expect from others inside and outside of their industry. Now once your volunteering stint is finished, if you ever need to work with them in a professional sense, you know exactly how to approach them for the best experience – for yourself, for them, and for the entire working process.