GNcareers, from Gulf News

Using time doing voluntary work as career enhancer

Using time doing voluntary work as career enhancerImage Credit: Supplied

For many who work long hours in demanding jobs, volunteering their time for anything related to their profession is asking for too much. In reality, volunteering for industry associations or profession-related events can be the step the career needs to climb the ladder at a quicker pace.

Once you have built up a solid experience, it is likely you will be approached for different opportunities — fund-raising, speaking at an event, chairing a panel session or being a board member. These may seem time-consuming without any near-term return on your time. But the reality is these are golden opportunities that if they don't come, you should seek them out.

Why? Here are five reasons:

You are the one

If you've been selected to a position to represent your company or industry, pat yourself on the back for distinguishing yourself. Not everyone gets such a recognition. You may be sceptical of the importance of such a selection or wary of the time needed to complete the work. But if you begin to engage with the organisation's activity, you may find it easier than you thought to come up with the time and interest.

In addition, having your name associated with a larger entity immediately gives you credibility. You can include this new status on your resume, cover letters and business cards. It bolsters your standing as a leader in your business or industry.

Meeting new people

You will get a chance to rub shoulders with top-notch peers. Meeting these new contacts will open doors to new jobs, fresh ideas and insights into the industry. You will also get to collaborate with a group that is different from your co-workers, which may help you see your job in a new way.

This new network can provide you the support you need when you are taking on new challenges or if you are changing jobs. In fact, it can be a constant that helps you keep your eye on your professional goals regardless of changing circumstances in the industry.

In addition, opportunities of being on the board of industry associations or volunteering your time to business events may be what you need to introduce some new faces and contacts in your work life.

Getting references

When moving jobs, you probably will need to ensure the references represent not only different voices from past jobs, but also can speak about the various skills you could bring to the new position. Having references from volunteer work can speak about your initiative and work done outside the immediate scope of the full-time job.

If you get the chance to work or volunteer with multiple industry associations, you may be able even to accumulate credits that can be mentioned in written communications, in speeches, etc. These create a positive association with your name, and the word of mouth is likely to land you more opportunities and make you a target for headhunters.

Gain new experience

The topics you research and the information you gather for these are probably outside your immediate work scope. Although that may mean extra work, it also makes you branch out, keep in touch with the industry and update the knowledge. This new experience will further set you apart from the peers. It also may point to a new direction for the career or at least staying ahead of the curve. What may appear as extra work initially may be saving you time and putting you ahead of the competition.

Show off your big heart

You don't have to volunteer for a charity or help the homeless to show your awareness of your surroundings. Your work with professional peers and within industry associations is an indication that you see beyond the immediate circles.

You can show you care about the overall good and willing to volunteer time and effort for the cause. These values are typically appreciated by current and future employers.

Find out what are your unique selling points?

Source: Rania Oteify, Special to

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor