Having multiple opportunities to volunteer your time and network with like-minded individuals certainly isn’t the worst situation for a young professional to be in. I consider myself lucky to be in a position where I can work with local leaders and influencers. Not only do I gain knowledge from their guidance and meet new people through volunteering, I am able to showcase my skills and be a part of a team of diverse and enthusiastic people. However, the balance between engagement, work, and home life can pose a substantial struggle for young professionals trying to fit it “all” in. We cannot be everywhere all the time, nor can we be everything to everyone, but in an increasingly connected and competitive world, the grind is on for young professionals across the province to be hyper-engaged and well-connected both in their work and extra-curricular lives.
For those working the nine to five, with fairly restricted flexibility, this “balance” may seem nearly impossible. When speaking to friends about volunteering or getting involved on a board or committee, I often hear a response like “my work schedule simply will not allow it” or “I want to, but it will make my days too long.” And that’s fair. In order to be truly engaged on any board, committee or long-term volunteer basis, an individual must offer a generous amount of their time. For those wanting to become more involved but are finding it difficult to squeeze everything into their day planners, here are a few tips that may help maximize your time:
Have a candid conversation with your supervisor or boss about where you want to volunteer – Most companies and organizations have policies in place for their employees to explore professional development. Many volunteer opportunities, particularly community based organizations, have governance structures including boards and committees that potentially align with professional development goals. Volunteer opportunities can also lead to additional training and mentoring, which can also fit into your organization’s definition of professional development. Talk to your boss to determine whether some flexibility can be introduced into your regular work day to accommodate appropriate volunteer work. For the employer, they bonus by having a more engaged, well-rounded and happy employee, while the employee is able to exercise freedom and further develop their skills in a new environment.
Align your “at-work” goals with your volunteer goals – The beauty about volunteering on a sector or program based committee or board, (think Chamber of Commerce, economic development-based, social services, etc.) is that it can be easy to tie in your current work with some of the goals of your respective volunteer opportunity. Accountant? Volunteer to be a treasurer on a board of directors. Web or graphic designer? Offer to volunteer on a working group for a not-for-profit’s website refresh. Not only will you add to your portfolio of work, you will be making valuable contacts and expanding your network at the same time.
Don’t be a YES person – It’s okay to say no. Community engagement and volunteering can sometimes snowball into too many opportunities to handle. The best volunteer is an engaged and energetic one, and stretching yourself too thin will only result in burnout and even worse, burning bridges due to lack of engagement. Commit, see through and move on to your next big thing!
Regardless of your availability or work schedule, volunteering is a fantastic way to get out, do something new and meet people. If you’re in an area with a local Young Professional Network, give them a shout and they will have plenty of ways to get involved, or can refer you somewhere that will interest you. If you have any tips for balancing work, life and play – let us know; we would be happy to share more tips with our YPNs.
Until next time!
Co-Director of Communications, YPNO
Past Chair of Strive: Young Professionals Group