Why Volunteering Can Be a Legit Career Move

by Janna Marlies Maron on March 18, 2014

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Cinde Dolphin.

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The beginning of my journey as a volunteer started in the offices of ThinkHouse Collective. I attend Bull Session meetings on Tuesdays as often as possible. Even when I spent time at a corporate-type job–it allowed me to flex some entrepreneurial muscles.

In the group, I witnessed individuals taking significant pay cuts in order to pursue business dreams. The beauty was listening to their passion come alive around a goal that really meant something to them. No one missed working for an executive team. There were very few laments about passing up a corporate lifestyle, and not a soul complained about the long hours.

And so, when the time was right, I chose to volunteer in order to follow my personal career objectives. I’m a seasoned marketing professional. I wanted the next step in my journey to define my legacy, and not the brand of a corporation. I was ready to apply my skills to help a cause or work in a community with critical needs, or both.

It was risky. I’m not a millennial, and leaving the workforce to volunteer doesn’t add value–according to most employers. I had to evaluate my circumstances carefully. Bottom line, the concept of doing something I was really passionate about became my deal breaker. Even if it meant putting my income stream on hold.

An unspoken asset of a being a volunteer is allowing yourself to create your destiny. You work with organizations that are thrilled if you show up. The level you invest your resources can be controlled (usually). And, if you find your heart’s just not in it–or not as much as you had hoped–you can resign without implications to future employment.

In my case, it was definitely life-changing. I realized tangible results by investing in people. The payout was almost immediate, and in every case, appreciated. Instead of measuring gains based on ROI, I saw results in people’s faces. Beaming smiles surpassed any stockholder return in my corporate experience.

Those I worked with gave back to me too. People took time to teach me the culture, language and values of their community. Their patience brought me back to the joys of a simple and balanced life. They reminded me that it’s the journey and not the destination. The same lesson I’d heard from my friends at Bull Session.

Volunteering is just one option. There are others. But be passionate about whatever you do. Don’t let another minute go by. Carpe diem.

Cinde Dolphin is an independent marking consultant and frequent attendee at ThinkHouse’s weekly Bull Session. Read more about her adventures in Africa on her blog

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