This month, we have been examining the concept of the encore career and why it 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 which is why so many boomers volunteer their time.
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, 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 the people you’re helping? Here’s a few tips on how to be a valued and helpful volunteer.
Find a cause you care about.
While there are so many worthy causes that need volunteers, it’s a good idea to seek out those organizations close to your heart. No doubt there are some causes that speak to you on a personal level. Giving some time to helping them achieve more can be very 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 difference if it is a cause you truly believe to be important. Think about charities you’d like to be involved in and the volunteer work that matter to you.
Understand what they need.
Volunteer work should be approached as if you’re doing any kind of paid work. You need to be aware of what they need in order to be a helpful part of the team. Yes, giving your time to these causes is certainly generous, but some people approach this work with the wrong attitude. They come in thinking the organizations are lucky to have them and should be thankful for any work they are doing. Organizations in need are indeed grateful for the help of volunteers, but they know what is needed to operate successfully. In many cases they need specific help, not for volunteers to do whatever they want. If you really want to be a valued asset to them, understand their needs and work on delivering the best results.
Put your skills to use.
Professional volunteers are a tremendous asset to many charity organization. Many of these causes can’t afford to hire professional so having access to professional skills is something they very much need. If you’re looking to volunteer, offer your professional skills. Let organizations know about your career experience . A communications, marketing or project management professional can really do a lot to help out these non-profit establishments. Offer insight into the work, advise them on projects, create work-plans they can use going forward. Your years of experience are highly valued — why not put them towards a worthy cause?
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. 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. Your skills are of value but that doesn’t mean you can take over. Again, 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 for the bigger picture.
Get to know your fellow volunteers.
Speaking of working as a team, these volunteer opportunities are offer a chance to meet new people. Even as we get older, the importance of forming meaningful relationships remains strong. However. boomers tend to have a more difficult time making new friends at their age. One of the most common situations they are able to make connections is through their volunteer work. Take advantage of spending time with generous people who share common interests. It might be volunteer work but that doesn’t mean it can’t be social, too.
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. 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.