I’d like to give a big welcome to Angeline from The New Professional today! She’s written a great post on volunteering at work:
Hi folks! Angeline from the New Professional here. I’m stoked to be writing a guest post for Consciously Corporate. As a relative newb in the workplace (about four years out of grad school), it’s tempting to give everything the ol’ college try. Throughout high school and college, I was the over-involved kid. If you asked me, I’d do it, if only for a chance to meet cute boys and add another notch to my resume or application. But in the workplace, that kind of strategy (or lack thereof) can run you down quickly without helping you in your career at all.
So when should you volunteer? There are several reasons to volunteer at work: to learn new skills, to demonstrate your leadership and innovation, to show initiative and drive, and to make nice with the right people. But what does this look like in practice? Here are some examples of common opportunities to volunteer and how they can (or can’t) help you in your career.
When to volunteer: If the project draws on skills that only you have, or if the project is in an area that you’re hoping to grow in. Taking on a challenging project that no one wants (and you’re not hugely averse to) can be a great opportunity to show how you can adapt and rise to a challenge.
When not to volunteer: If you already have a full load of projects, taking on another when someone else has space can look like you’re trying to hog the work, and later on, the glory. Do what you’re doing now well, and you’ll be primed to take the lead next time.
When to volunteer: When the time commitment is manageable and when the committee has an actual goal, deliverables, and deadlines. Otherwise you’ll just sit around spinning your wheels. This is also often a way to make nice with other departments or organizations—you want to make sure your department comes off as a team player (and depending on your position within your department, committee work may fall to you).
When not to volunteer: If you get the feeling it’s just a time-waster and there’s no real goal. Also, when the commitment threatens to compromise the time spent on your own work, you should probably step back.
When to volunteer: A one-time project stuffing envelopes for a big mailing your department is doing is no biggie—if you have time that day then by all means lend a hand.
When not to volunteer: Grunt work for another department may make you feel good lending a hand, but it’s best to do the job you’ve been hired for. If you’re in a support-type department, that’s a different story.
Conferences and events
When to volunteer: If you don’t mind the physical toll of working an event, are the best person to represent the program or service, or really have an interest in learning from a conference, do it! Companies are interested in investing in and fostering the growth of their employees through training, and if you can come back from a conference or event with a wider (relevant) network or new ideas and skills that can help your work, it’s totally worth it.
When not to volunteer: When you just want to travel or get out of the office. Don’t be a moneysuck or drag the team down with your whining from standing all day in an exhibition hall. People notice these things.
When does volunteering take a turn for the worse?
* When you’re overloading yourself and you don’t have time for your actual job.
* When you’re being asked to do way more than your share of the volunteer work.
* When you’re spending more time doing your volunteer duties than doing your actual work.
* When you’re automatically added to the list every time a new committee is formed.
Do you jump at every opportunity or assess each one before you raise your hand?
Angeline raises some great points about volunteering at work in this post. She discusses more business and fashion issues on her blog, The New Professional, so make sure you take a look at the great insight from her other posts!