Why You Should Be a Selfish Volunteer


I’m a selfish volunteer.  When I think about bartering my most valuable commodities of time and skills, I don’t start from a place of generosity.  In fact, my first question is usually
what’s in it for me (WIFFM)?

Now this doesn’t mean that I’m not passionate about service or care about leaving the world a little better off than it was when I landed here.  But the reality is that after an overflowing week in a giving profession when I sometimes feel like I’m surrounded by no one but takers, extending more of myself like a little bit too much to ask.  Before I even ask the WIIFM question, I think about my carefully color-coded Outlook calendar where I’ve blocked and frequently re-arrange holds to remind myself to eat lunch. I think about my grad school deadlines and the homework I should be doing or reality show that holds the promise of relaxation in my future.  I haven’t regretted saying yes to volunteering, but there are a few no’s that got away.

I would be lying if I said that I haven’t benefited tremendously from my extracurricular activities as a habitual volunteer.  So here’s my “what I’ve gotten from volunteering list” in case you’re on the fence about applying to join a YNPN committee this year:  

  1. Bossing skills - Even when I’ve felt like my job was giving me lots of closed doors and red lights, when I’ve shown up as a volunteer I’ve found the opportunities to develop my skills by flexing my leadership muscles and take on projects and challenges in preparation for professional growth.  I’ve practiced using my voice and stretched my problem-solving muscles while grown from the examples and perspectives of others alongside me.
  2. Connections - I’ve unlocked the adult achievement of making non-work, non-college friends.  By getting out of my small bubble, I’ve met and worked alongside incredible people who I love and appreciate that I would never have found otherwise.
  3. Balance - As a recovering workaholic, volunteering has become a strategic component of my self-care strategy because I’ve learned that the more “other things” I have to do outside of work, the less work I’m taking home with me.  By leveraging my volunteer commitments to create healthier boundaries, I get to do all of the things!
  4. Assists - In the triple doubles of life, volunteer experience is a great statistic to accrue for your resume or next performance review.  I also like to keep a handful of secret volunteer experience in my back pocket for emergencies.
  5. A little bit of discomfort - I prefer to be “interested” in activities and events rather than to brave the commitment of “going.”  Volunteering helps me to be accountable to myself to engage and be more fully present in the activities I’m involved in.  When I go to a networking event, my inner-introvert kicks in and looks for the nearest wall or place to be only somewhat visible.  I’d much rather have a sign-in sheet as my wingman for meeting and greeting. Having a purpose or a function as a volunteer actually helps me both get more out of an event and get a bit more out of myself than I expected.

So whatever you’re looking for, trust me when I say that there is much to be gained from sharing your talents as a volunteer.  But don’t forget to be selfish.

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