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3 Ways Volunteering Can Advance Your Career

Beyond the obvious benefits of helping out in the community and impacting lives, volunteering can also help you further your career.

The end of January 2020 is looming in sight. If you have yet to make any headway on your New Year’s Resolution to get promoted, perhaps it’s time to consider volunteering. Understandably, you may be resistant to the idea. With the pressures of working for a prestigious company and staying competitive in Singapore’s fast-paced economy, giving away your time for free can seem like a luxury you can't afford. However, the truth is that volunteerism is an oft-overlooked career advancement strategy. Here's how volunteering can be a significant boost to your career.

Fine-Tunes Networking Skills & Expands Your Professional Circle

Studies show that building and nurturing professional relationships can lead to more career opportunities, broader knowledge, and faster job advancement. Therefore, to enhance your career, fine-tuning your networking skills should be a priority. This is where volunteering comes in–it gives you the perfect opportunity to practice and develop your skills. Given that most volunteering opportunities take place in a friendly, non-intimidating environment, it's typically less stressful if you happen to make a mistake. As with most skills, the more you practice, the better you get.

Networking is key to success in the workplace

Perhaps more crucially, volunteering is a natural way to meet new people. It shows you that professional networking doesn’t need to be forced or awkward. With volunteering, you get direct access to new contacts and can work on a real-life project, side-by-side. These individuals often become more than just someone you met. They can become mentors, and in some cases, offer leads to new careers. Also, unlike traditional networking, volunteering provides you with the chance to be exposed to industries and individuals you’d otherwise never have access to. This unique benefit can be influential in assisting you in your personal business goals–especially if you’re branching out from your current profession.

Helps You to Pick Up New & Valuable Skills

If you've been eyeing a new position but don't have the needed skills, you could pick them up through volunteering. Typically, nonprofits run very much like corporate entities, except for the funding component. There are similar operational departments such as human resources, finance, and marketing & communications that offer opportunities for you to learn new and valuable skills. With many nonprofits short-staffed and lacking resources, they'd be happy to welcome you on board.

You won’t be paid for your work, but the new skills you pick up will be yours to keep. Most importantly, you’ll get hands-on experience which makes it easy to learn even faster. Ultimately, volunteering can help your case when you’re asking for more job responsibilities–especially if you can quantify the impact you made through volunteering.

Improves Your Mental Health & Boosts Confidence

Through volunteering, you're also doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can give a sense of pride, identity, and purpose. Also, given that volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a robust support system, it can prevent against or mitigate depression. Volunteer work can even counter burnout from your day-to-day job, which is often associated with detrimental health effects like anxiety and insomnia.

Given that volunteering can help you expand your network, increase knowledge, and improve skills, it can also boost your confidence. Interestingly, research finds that self-confidence is a crucial determinant of workplace success. People who are more confident tend to be more assertive, try new things, and even communicate more effectively–all trademarks of a productive, valuable employee.

Always Pick A Cause You Feel Strongly For

Volunteering produces many career-development benefits. However, these benefits may take some time to come to fruition. To reap the rewards, as with all things, you need to go at it for a while. So, to ensure you don’t burn out from giving, always pick a cause you feel strongly for. There are many options available, ranging from helping the needy, to the disabled, to animals, after all.

Table of several volunteer organisations in Singapore

Ultimately, volunteering offers a great opportunity to grow personally and professionally, while also learning new skillsets. Even if you choose to volunteer just to try out a new experience, you may still be able to counter the stress of workplace burnout, improving your day-to-day life.

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