Dedicated Me (Volunteer) Time

by Reem Papageorgiou | October 7, 2021

Here is a fun one-question quiz: What is your gut reaction when you hear the word “volunteering?” (No judgement here, this response is between you and only you.) 1) Warm and fuzzy, I love to volunteer 2) Insert eye roll please, don’t ask me to do one more thing 3) I should, but I just don’t have the time 4) I’ve done plenty in the past - no more for me At this stage in your life, be it career-wise, motherhood, or just plain soul searching, the thought of volunteering can be a big trigger, both for better and for worse. Many of you have spent your lives providing free labor in your career (think: early career internships, fellowships, roles as staff “assistant”). Then again in motherhood, you committed to more of that work (think: parent teacher associations, coaching kid sports teams, leading a scout troop). These opportunities most likely led you to exciting career paths or connected you to a community you felt proud to be part of. At the same time, you may have had experiences that felt like your efforts led to nowhere professionally; personally, you might have felt at times that you were the only one who stepped up for the cause. It’s all real. It all matters. It’s all matters. And here is another truth: just like you have been told during these years of motherhood that you need to make sure you take dedicated self-care time (yes, we do need a new phrase for “oxygen mask first”) - you also deserve an opportunity for dedicated volunteer me time if you are trying to change careers, re-enter the workforce, or energize your altruistic side. Don’t roll your eyes at me, yet. Dedicated Volunteer Me Time What it is: Purposeful Directed Exciting Relevant (to your career curiosities) What it is not: Random Unrelated (to your career curiosities) Non-Specific Paralyzing Dedicated volunteer me time means finding a volunteer experience that allows you topractice and explore what that career voice in your head reminds you about. It’s finding opportunities either in the roles you want to know more about (marketing, accounting, design, etc.) or in the causes you are committed to (health and wellness, travel, human resources, etc.) and stepping into those opportunities to move yourself forward toward your goals. Before you scan the internet for volunteer opportunities, do some soul searching to help build your action item list: Time How many hours can you really commit to? (Again, it’s only you here. Be honest with yourself.) Field What is it that you really want to pursue? (Marketing, health, non-profits, etc.) Tasks What type of work are you willing to start with? What has your research indicated is a starting point in the field? For example, if you want to go into accounting, can you take a QuickBooks course and start handling the books for a small local business to build your portfolio? Network Who do you know in those jobs or industries? Ask them what they see as good lead-ins to the industry and what areas would be beneficial to volunteer in. If you don’t know anyone, do some research and contact individuals whose work and roles fall in line with your interests. People love to talk about themselves! Once you have narrowed down what you are able to commit to and are interested in, and where you are willing to start, then search. Millions of websites and organizations list opportunities including board positions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the companies and organizations that have interested you and tell them not only what work you can do for them, but more importantly why you would be of great value to them. It takes time to take care of yourself. It takes effort. Exercising. Eating Healthy. Making Time for Friends. And yes, “you-focused, purposeful-volunteering.” Dedicated Me Volunteer Time enhances your skills, builds your resume and often helps transition into a paid job. While it can feel like “one more thing” you have to do, done with purpose it can boost your professional career whether you are returning to work or changing fields. You would tell anyone of your loved ones they are worth it. And so are you. Let’s go.