I’ve never paused to think why it’s important to volunteer, I have always known it’s a necessary activity to give my life more meaning. Some people are lucky and get paid to do what they love; act, sing, write, invent, build, or argue. Others have to keep their passions in the area of their lives we call, hobbies. Writing is one of my hobbies. My first short story royalty check was $5.47, not enough to buy lunch. My theory is that we have lots of interests, several skills, and finding a way to weave them altogether so we can support ourselves plus feel like we matter or have value is the goal.
Professionally, I talk for a living. I interview and spin stories. I promote opportunities. I prep professionals for jobs or prepare clients for wooing candidates. People who know me well, recognize that I do like to talk, but it’s not talking for the sake of talking. It’s a powerful thing to listen well and be a wordsmith. Communication is how people connect. I’m a headhunter, a talent acquistion, marketing and sales professional. Being a connector or networker is innate to me, because I really enjoy people and connecting them to what they love. It’s like putting together a big puzzle.
What’s my point?! I’ve had several conversations with people recently, who were searching for meaning. To find the balance between life and work (where you want to get up each morning) and also can afford to pay to keep a roof over your head is a tough place to find. That’s where volunteering comes in. You may feel you don’t even have time to read that bestseller sitting on your nightstand. Or your partner has been asking you to mow the lawn or take out the garbage, and all you want to do is play a video game or take a run to de-stress. I would argue, find the time because it will enrich your life, enlarge your perspective on the world, expand your personal and professional horizons, and who knows where that interaction might take you.
I challenge you to explore an opportunity to volunteer.
- Find something you are really passionate about or know a lot about, often the two are related; literacy, music, cooking, exercise, entrepreneurism, or science?
- Think about the population you feel drawn to working with most what moves you; kids, adults, elderly? Does the religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identification, nationality, or status like military, vulnerable populations, or mentally impaired, etc. matter to you?
- Review your skills that you have to offer; good with numbers, accounting or finance, strong marketing & communications experiences, great networking and fundraising, community organizer, strong operations skills, ability to mentor about a topic, and or just energy to lend a hand.
- Be realistic about the time you can devote, best hours of the day, best days of the week. Volunteering is a commitment and canceling isn’t cool.
- Research various non profits, non governmental organizations (NGOs), religious charities, retirement communities, schools, or hospitals to see what they look for in volunteers, or what skills of yours might be valuable to them, and align with your interests.
- Volunteer on short term finite projects, a clean up of the park, a book sale at the school, a bring your dog to visit the elderly afternoon, and see what speaks to you.
- Narrow the field, and get more involved to see what you think of the leadership team, the mission, and the operations of the organization.
Organically it will happen. You will find yourself taking on more activities and responsibilities with an organization that resonates with you. Like me, you may find yourself on the board of an organization. I’ve been with Empowered Women International (ewint.org) for over four years now. Raising funds, working on projects, and volunteering in the workshops are several of the experiences I’ve enjoyed. I found my passion for sharing my knowledge about business and careers was a great match for EWI. They give entrepreneurial training and mentoring to immigrant, refugee, and American born women as a tool to gain economic stability.
Some days I wonder which is my real job and which is my volunteer work. Both my work and my volunteering seem to compliment each other and I find that they often mix and mingle. Volunteering makes me a better professional, and my professional skills make me a better volunteer. My entire life is enriched. With the world in turmoil, all I can do is work locally to make things better one person at a time. It’s a good way to keep your sanity and feed your soul.