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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fourth: Volunteer

Volunteer?? You just wanted to find a job or get more clients, not more work!

Imagine yourself at the office and there is a knock at the door (or a tap on the low wall of your cubicle divider). You open the door (or look up) and the person promptly asks you for a job; or, if you are not presently hiring, whether you know someone who is. The person waits.

Even if you really wanted to help this person, two questions immediately come to mind: a) “Who are you?” and b) “How should I know?” Even if you were a famous, wealthy, well connected executive, these are the questions in your mind.

If, however, that person rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside you on a couple of projects, you’d evaluate him in a different light. He gives you a sample of his work ethic, energy level and, even better, helps make your life easier. By volunteering, you’ll let them know who you are and they will develop a sense of how they can help you.

There is only one step required to execute this plan: tell someone. But, before you do, please prepare yourself. You might be enthusiastic (desperate) for inclusion in this group but if you want to be at your best, you have to make sure everyone gets along. Here are some tips:

Survey the groups you’ve visited and choose one or two:
Do you like the subjects? Do you want to learn more?
Do you like the organizers? Do you emulate them?

Research the organization.

Chances are, even if you have attended a cluster of events, you probably missed out on basic information like its founding, mission statement or even past events. Figure out where you might fit in their grand scheme.

Then make the leap and tell an organizer about your interest. By the way, when you do, keep it simple. You are not there to solve its problems, whatever you happen to perceive them to be. Why? Because at this point, you won’t have the experience to know whether they even consider low turnout/bad food/boring speaker to BE a problem. If you want to make improvements, keep it to yourself and roll out your grand plan later after you’re better educated and have earned trust.

Everyone can volunteer and every organization needs volunteers. even if you have no skills in the profession, if you’ve lived with people in a society and have planned at least one outing to a movie or the beach, you are prepared.

Volunteer options, from least to most involved:

Check in: Meet everyone, be visible
Write for publications: Get your name out there, learn as you write
Planning (logistics): First contact with speakers, befriend staff
Generate event ideas
Organize an entire event
Join the board

Revisiting our hypothetical about a stranger knocking at your door, when you volunteer, you’re no longer a stranger. And, since you’ve proven yourself, your contacts will not only be happy to think of you for future opportunities, they will be more likely to recommend you to others in their network.

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