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Utah Business

Professionals who volunteer frequently in their spare time are more likely to find success at work. Here's why you should be volunteering.

If You’re Not Volunteering, You’re Not Growing

Are you ready for the opportunity of a lifetime? This opportunity has unlimited growth potential. You have the potential to maximize your gifts, talents, and be as innovative and creative as you’d like, so can give your full self. You can grow as fast or as slow as you’d like. This opportunity has many openings at the top, and you can build a very large network. There’s a low barrier to entry and requires little to no monetary investment. The best thing? It’s for a good cause. Now, I’m not talking about network marketing. I’m talking about volunteerism.

Have you ever considered volunteering from this perspective? We primarily think about the opportunity to give back to the community and help those in need. However, the law of reciprocity is always in effect, and the more passionate you become in your service, the more you’ll be able to grow. Professionally and personally. The law of reciprocity wins again, and this circle only stops when you do.

“Every professional connection I have gained has come from volunteering in the community” says Benjamin Sessions. Mr. Sessions serves as the executive director of Circles Salt Lake, the President of the Sugarhouse Chamber of Commerce, and is also a trustee of the Sugarhouse Community Council. He enjoys volunteering because it gives him an opportunity to build a relationship with a variety of different people who have a different outlook on life. And once he developed trust with them, he found he was introduced to more opportunities through those relationships.

Companies recognize this. At the end of last year, Utah Business recognized 25 Best Companies to Work for. One company, Simplus, an IT company in Salt Lake City, offers paid volunteer hours to employees. And other companies are doing the same, believing that it helps them maximize their giving strategy, especially when budgets are strained. Not only do the companies benefit by their exposure to the community and even the tax deductions, but allowing their employees to volunteer contributes to their professional growth.

Finding Strengths Through Service  

My story is similar to Mr. Session’s. It is because of my engagement in the community that has had the most impact on where I am today. I was just very eager to market myself, as I was involved in, yes, network marketing. This kind of business opportunity wasn’t easy for someone who is shy and introverted. It wasn’t until I began engaging in the community I started becoming a person of influence. Then I found myself taking a whole new path. I left network marketing and began to focus on community development. I found my passion, and I’ve gained so many skills and discovered strengths I didn’t know I had.

”My role as leader of Young Professionals Salt Lake City has resulted in me having to stretch myself and learn new things that aren’t typically apart of the day to day for my 9 to 5,” says Nchopia Nwokoma, president of YPSLC. “YPSLC is a non-profit organization operated entirely by volunteers. This means I wear many hats and have to DIY a lot of things.”

Because of her volunteer work, Ms. Nwokoma has become a more well-rounded employee at her company, England Logistics. Working with leaders in her workplace, she can now understand competing priorities and how to best address them. She has become comfortable communicating with people in various levels of their careers and also better understands how to align all projects and initiatives to overall outcomes and strategy.

Leading A Volunteer Army

While speaking with Mr. Sessions and Ms. Nwokoma, I found that we have much in common when it comes to what we have learned when engaging with the community compared to our growth in the workplace. We’ve been able to develop more skills and more abilities, things we can add to a resume, like leadership skills.

Personally, I have exponentially grown my leadership skills by volunteering. When you’re in the corporate world, people are paid to follow you. If you want to measure your ability to lead, lead a volunteer army. When you are in the community volunteering, people follow you because of your vision, passion, and more importantly, your desire for change. People follow you because they want to, not because they have to.

Climbing the corporate ladder can seem daunting at times, especially when you are at the bottom. Volunteering in the community can make the climb a lot easier by preparing you for the journey. Put your skills to the test through service and watch your career opportunities multiply.

James Jackson is the supplier diversity program manager of Zions Bancorporation’s supply chain management and founder of the Utah Black Chamber.