(Net)Working Outside of Work

After a long day at the office, usually the last thing we want to think about is more work. But if you want to really want to get yourself known, you’ll get involved in community activities or in social causes.

A lot of people just don’t enjoy the typical networking events: stiff conversation at a cocktail party or a formal luncheon or dinner. But volunteering is a great way to network without really trying. It is a way that you can benefit yourself and whatever organization, project, or cause you’re interested in, and it can be fun.

You can volunteer for a political party or the bar association. Or you can volunteer for a nonprofit organization that does work you feel strongly about, such as domestic violence, animal abuse/rescue, cancer (or any disease), or homelessness. You can volunteer at a school, at your church, at a museum or library, in the hospital, at the local food pantry or soup kitchen. The possibilities are endless, yet the need is immense.

Volunteering is a great way to find new opportunities. It can give you a chance to explore a new area of law to practice or a new career altogether. It can help you get different kinds of training or improve a skill, and it can help you make new contacts. Many nonprofits are eager to have an attorney on their board of directors. It gives them added credibility and legal assistance when they need advice.

If you have a family, volunteering together is a great way to teach your children the value of community service, while getting to spend quality time together. If you don’t have a family but enjoy children, there are hundreds of possibilities where you can make the difference in the life of a child.

Some volunteer work is quite hard emotionally, but it is also very rewarding. Besides the contacts you make, it can boost your self-confidence and bring joy and satisfaction to your life.

It might sound a little self-serving to help yourself while you’re helping others, but does it really matter? Despite the reasons you get involved, you are still providing important service to others. When we give, we also receive — in many different ways.

And volunteering doesn’t mean you have to make a heavy time commitment. You could get involved in something that is long term, such as serving on a board and participating in all the organization’s fundraisers and activities. Or you could be an “episodic” volunteer where you help out as a one-time supporter. That would let you get involved in a lot of different events in your community and meet a lot of different people.

Just remember that when you do make a commitment to help, stick to it or gracefully excuse yourself. You don’t want to become known as undependable and flaky—that’s a reputation to steer clear of!

Every organization is always looking for volunteers on so many different levels. Your time, talents and efforts can bring great benefit to others and to yourself. If you use volunteer work as a networking tool, you just never know what will come about!

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