This month, we have been examining the concept of the encore career and why is seems to be so appealing to boomer professionals. One of the major reasons we’ve identified was that boomers seek opportunities in their work that make a real impact and provide an invaluable service. Of course, achieving this can go beyond your career.
More and more boomers have been seeking out volunteer opportunities, whether during retirement or just in their free time. While donating money to worthy causes is certainly generous and much-needed, but giving your time not only helps those organization, but also gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose in your work. But what does it take to be a good volunteer? How can you ensure it is a great experience for you and for the people you’re helping? Here’s a few tips on how to achieve that goal.
Find a cause you care about.
While there are so many worthy causes that could need a helping hand, it can be nice to seek out those organizations close to your heart. No doubt there are some causes that speak to you on a personal level and giving some time to helping them achieve more can really be fulfilling. As with any type of work, having passion for the tasks at hand and believing in what you doing can go a long way in helping to produce quality work. It also makes you feel as though you are helping to make a genuine different if it is a cause you truly believe to be important.
Understand what they need.
Going in to do volunteer work should be approached as if you’re going in to do any kind of paid work. In other words, you should be aware of what they are looking for. Don’t get me wrong, giving your time to these causes if a great thing to do, but some people approach this work with the idea that the organizations are lucky to have them and they can really do whatever they think is helpful. These organizations are grateful, but in many cases they need specific help and if you really want to be a valued asset to them, it is best that you ask them what they need from you and try to deliver as best you can.
Put your skills to use.
One of the great values of having professionals volunteering with organizations is that these organization now have access to skills and experience they might not have previously. Many volunteer organizations are not well staffed and do not always draw the most experience people for positions. If you have certain career skills that might be of value to the organization you’re volunteering with, let them know. A communications, marketing or project management professional can really do a lot to help out these non-profit establishments.
Don’t overextend yourself.
It can feel really good to help out, and sometimes people can get carried away with that. When you volunteer, you often have to leave your ego at the door and be prepared to become just another employee there to lend a helping hand. For some professionals with more senior positions, this can get lost on them and they can start to become controlling over the whole operation. Remember, your experience is valuable when needed, but don’t begin to assume you know what’s best for the organization. Allow yourself to become part of the team and do your individual part in the bigger picture.
Get to know your fellow volunteers.
Speaking of working on a team, these volunteer opportunities are great opportunities to meet new people. Studies have shown that people of a boomers age have a harder time making new friends, but one of the most common situations they do form new friendships is through their volunteer work. It’s important to remain social no matter your age, so why not get to know the people you clearly have a common interest with?
Spread the word.
Aside from meeting new people, why not bring some of your friends and family along to help out too? These organizations need all the help they can get and the more you are willing to spread the word about their cause and let people know the volunteer opportunities they offer, the more you’re helping out. Volunteering is community activity, so do your part in building that community stronger.