Some employees may consider volunteering to be a strictly personal activity. However, it can enhance your career in more ways than one.
Throughout high school and college, I was always an active volunteer. However, since graduating college in 2015, volunteering has taken a back seat. I’ve spent the first few years of adulthood focusing on my professional and personal development, from getting my first job to learning how to file taxes. Up until the end of last year, I hadn’t gotten around to finding an organization that I felt passionate enough to volunteer for. An article published by the Huffington Post pushed me to make a decision: If You’re Overwhelmed By The Election, Here’s What You Can Do Now. The first action on the list was to volunteer.
I did some research on non-profits that needed volunteers and had flexible schedules to accommodate my day job. While looking into potential organizations, I also tried to consider opportunities that could help me grow both personally and professionally. I decided on a call center in downtown Boston because it would help serve three purposes: I would be helping those who need to talk to someone, I would enhance my listening skills and I would become more confident on the phone.
Working in PR is constantly about communicating with your clients, the media, your teams and others, so this seemed like a great opportunity. While many consider volunteering to be a personal activity, there are many ways volunteering can also help you with your career. Since volunteering, I have:
- Worked on my networking skills: There are always new faces in the call center, so I’ve had to become more comfortable speaking with new people. By introducing myself to the stranger sitting next to me during our four to eight hour shifts, volunteering has helped me work not only on my small talk, but also getting to know someone new in a short amount of time. Recently, I attended a marketing networking event and noticed how much more comfortable I was walking up to someone and introducing myself – a skill I would not have had if it wasn’t for volunteering.
- Become a better listener: When you work at a call center, it’s vital to be an active listener. Active listening requires concentration and a full understanding of what the caller is telling you. You’re not meant to focus on what you’re going to say next, but to focus on what the caller is saying to you, and making sure you understand him or her. I have been able to apply this at work by honing in on what our clients are telling us, rather than just thinking about how I’m going to respond. While it’s important to have timely responses to a client, taking a minute to fully process the information can lead to more valuable dialogue and meaningful outcomes.
- Gained confidence talking on the phone: As a millennial, I’ve grown up in a digital age. Most of my communications with friends and family are done via text. Working at a call center has forced me to become more comfortable talking on the phone. The more I talk on the phone, the more confident I become – which in turn will help me be more confident on client calls at work. From weekly client calls to media interviews, being able to confidently and comfortably speak on the phone is a must; having the opportunity to practice speaking clearly on the phone and articulating my thoughts and ideas has benefited from my volunteer work.
- Enhanced my time management skills: Juggling a personal and professional life with volunteering has helped improve my time management skills. At the particular call center where I volunteer, they ask for a standing weekly shift as well as one overnight shift per month. I’ve had to prioritize projects and manage my time so that I can meet my deliverables while engaging in after-work commitments with friends and still have time for my weekly call center shifts.
While volunteer work is unpaid and often unrelated to your job, it can offer many benefits that can enhance both your personal and professional life. Marketers are particularly well-equipped to make a difference – and can even change the world.
Want to get involved? There are many organizations that need your help. Check out VolunteerMatch.org for opportunities in your area.