Volunteering - What's in it for Me? (It's OK to Ask!)

Lee Simmons 2015Though Gilman Partners focuses on hiring solutions for the some of the region's most well-known companies, we are often asked for tips designed to help candidates land their dream job. While this post is offered to support job seekers, it is important for hiring managers to remember why volunteering is important as well. Growing up in a family where both parents were avid volunteers, I inhabited a rich learning lab, and throughout my life it would have been strange not to be involved in our community. However, much later I realized that I would appreciate volunteering--quite apart from its obvious intrinsic benefits--by watching it work for job seekers as an actual career strategy. To fully realize this I first had to admit I'd fallen by serendipity into the healthy blending of professional career and volunteer career. As I took stock of my own resume, I acknowledged most of my positions came as a result of my volunteer efforts and not my hard-won professional accomplishments. Proactively making a connection to the job you want through volunteering and doing it with strategic intent can have the impact of a double whammy on the quality of your career choice, the experience itself, and the skills you develop. Here are five reasons to be selective and purposeful about your volunteer life: Career Exploration Regardless of your age or background, volunteering will introduce you to new ideas for professional growth. Any idea can turn into a new career path and volunteers often will be called upon to "stretch" their skills and capabilities--simply because they are present and available and there is no one else to do the task at hand. The benefit is on-the-job training. Skill Development One of the top volunteers in a natural science lab became so proficient and knowledgeable that he was offered the position of head botanist at a well-known nature preserve. A fledgling digital artist honed her skill while volunteering in the marketing area of a non-profit and later became a creative professional. The act of mentoring someone who is not as far along in a chosen field develops management talent. Don't underestimate the potential skills you can develop in a volunteer position. Networking Where do the people you want to meet and work with volunteer? What are they doing? Networking as a volunteer can be the best "win/win" of all--helping to meet your own goals while developing relationships with people you want to connect with and moving the organization's mission forward. Personal and Leadership Development Serving on a volunteer board enhances your network, communication and leadership skills--and leading a non-profit board means the entire organization's governance is in your volunteer hands. These are key positions and can be game-changers on your career. There can be no better "inside baseball" situation than serving on or leading a board. You'll have the opportunity to recruit others to the cause, make a real mark where one is needed, and take an organization to a different level, thus enhancing and improving your own reputation and brand. Re-charging your Batteries Volunteering at a humane shelter, playing basketball with kids, taking tickets at the opera--all these activities can refresh your daily routine. Need to work out some stress? Consider more labor-intensive roles such as helping remove invasive species at a park or nature preserve or building footpaths. Volunteering can prove to be the strategy that works--both ways! Lee Simmons is Vice President at Gilman Partners. She is focused on assisting the team in expanding and diversifying the client base. Specifically, she works with clients in healthcare, not-for-profit and selected other client organizations. Lee served for more than eight years as Vice President Philanthropy, and President of the Museums Foundation at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Prior to joining Museum Center, she spent 19 years with Lee Hecht Harrison, a global provider of leadership development and talent management solutions, where she served as Senior Vice President/Regional Sales Director. Simmons began her career in marketing and sales management with Xerox.  Lee serves or has served on numerous non-profit boards, including the Cincinnati Ballet, Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Board of Overseers, Junior League, and International Association of Career Management Professionals. Other leadership roles include the Cincinnatus Association and the steering committee for Leadership Cincinnati. She was an active volunteer for the Seven Hills School, an Elder in her church, and is currently involved with the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute.  


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