EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

When to work for free

by Shannon Houde

So you want to make a difference?

That’s what 98% of my career-coaching clients say when I ask them why they want to get into the sustainability sector. We tend to be values-led people, seeking jobs that allow us to “make a difference”, “give back” and “have a positive impact”. So it’s all the more important for us to walk the talk in our personal lives, as well as our professional ones.

One way of doing just that is what I call strategic volunteering – an approach to pro bono work with three crucial components.

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1) Strategic skills

The best volunteer role for you is one that uses your core skills and helps develop new, transferrable ones. Painting a wall in a primary school is probably not going to fit the bill. Instead, find a way to help organize events, write a blog, research a benchmarking study, or organize their business development leads – something that links directly to a stronger CV.

2) Strategic impacts

Look for volunteer posts that have tangible impacts, something that can be measured or counted in a KPI. For example, “helped X unemployed 18-year-olds open a bank account” (if you work in the financial sector) or “helped fundraise $Y by reaching out to Z people through social media”.

3) Strategic networks

Finally, make sure that you select an opportunity that will deepen and diversify your network of contacts. By staying in touch with fellow volunteers and service users, you’ll open yourself up to a wide range of likeminded people who’ll support you. If you are trying to move sectors make sure the volunteering offers you access to those stakeholders.

So where should you look?

The Taproot Foundation is a great place to start. They aim to align hard business skills and experience (yours) with organizations committed to solving social and environmental problems. Check out their database of pro bono projects and get inspired. Another option for finance professionals is Bankers Without Borders. This unique organization has tasked itself with partnering Fortune 500 companies and individuals with organizations fighting global poverty to improve their scale, sustainability, and impact. Last but not least, Ashoka is the largest global network of social entrepreneurs and offer many opportunities. Among my favorites are the Chief Entrepreneur & Leadership listings aimed specially at experienced entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs as well as their LinkedIn volunteering group.

 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

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