Want to move to a new country, or about to move to a new country? Want to start your professional networks? Professional volunteering work may be the way to go.
Now, in certain cases, one already has a group of networks already. But, what happens if it’s in a country where you really only know one person? Or if the working/personal language is foreign? You have just graduated? You are entering a new field? I can perhaps put forward the case for doing professional volunteer work.
What is professional volunteer work? This is using the specialist skills gained in your profession on a volunteer capacity for a brand, organisation or group. It could be a registered non-profit or charity, or a loose collection of individuals forming a group, or even a start-up.
I’ve written in the past about volunteer work, usually in relation to the creative industries. This is quiet a different area, as it covers a wide range of industries, regions, skill sets and what professional stage that individual is in. When I was an undergraduate student, I took part in a fair bit of pro-bono work and I had a rule where I become more selective in doing volunteer work. I ‘volunteered’ in my own start-up (aka bootstrapped), I volunteered for a well-known industry group, and I would even consider some of the unpaid speaking gigs as a form of volunteering (community engagement?).
All in all however, volunteering can really pay off. At the same time, a degree of caution needs to be made.
Registered volunteering associations / organisations
Now you may see these under your membership association or affiliation. If you are a member then you really should check if your membership body has some sort of volunteer opportunities. It could be in the form of holding professional development events, being a chapter leader, working on resources and more. Usually have a lot of ways to volunteer for these professional groups are also available outside of those who are members. These are the best ways to volunteer, as at least it’s a recognised group and because chances are the activities have been running for a while, then there is some sort of template already available.
In terms of degree of caution, I think that because these groups are definitely associated with your profession, there is also the need to juggle and manage your time and commitments for the group in relation to non-work related commitments.
Now, this is completely on a case-by-case basis. If you want to spend four hours per day on ‘sweat equity’, go for it. I think that start-ups are good opportunities to learn…start-ups in general. There are already a lot of writings out there on vetting out whether or not you should get involved in that start-up.
My personal thoughts? Thanks to the low barrier of entry for start-ups, one can have a group of three people together (or one) to package together some slides and a Word document and call it the “Uber of…”. However, they lack engineering. Maybe you should volunteer? For me, this raises a flag. Personally, you need more than a pitch deck and a Word document to get on board. What about marketing intern? Again, another flag, especially if others are being compensated for, say, $60k. Wow, $60k for an engineer, none for a marketing intern? It shows how little they value marketing’s skillsets.
Again, it’s a case by case basis.
This wasn’t volunteer work, but someone was looking for advice on his start-up software company which is a medical software applications company. I started asking and talking about surrounding issues about data, security, the cloud. No answer. Another thing, and to quote, “I just want something that I like”. Now this means that it’s someone’s pet project.
Working on your own projects
This is fairly straight-forward, and really, it’s fool-proof because you’re the boss of your own projects. I have a number of my own as well, including this.
You can suit projects directly to what you want to work on and focus on. For example:
- I’ve recently got on to Digital Ocean and scored a fair bit of credits. I’m using that to spin a couple of projects that are just technology and platform driven. I decided to do this, I couldn’t find projects that I could work on that involved the technologies that I wanted to learn about. In a related note, this is a way of dealing with not meeting 100% of the job requirements…
- I’ve been blogging a fair bit about travel and even had online advertising opportunities on this blog (back in 2012/2013, before the rehaul/relaunch). This is great – I get to publish content that interests me, interests you and have the opportunity to potentially earn passive income.
- Related to above, I want to learn a particular foreign language. Now, how to go about it? A good way is to blog and write about it and offer advice too.
- Several years ago, I created an online hub on social media. I got a lot out of that, and so did other people – from the readers, to the community, to the freelancers that I paid and also supported. I even won an award for it, yay, but you don’t do things to win awards. You do things because you are passionate with it.
And thus, I leave that last line as my final note.
Volunteer because you are passionate about it. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere, you just need to find the good ones that also fit you since at least you are in it for the long haul. If you can’t find the good ones, then start your own!