This is a guest post by Lindsay A. O’Leary, P.E., CAE, LEED AP, M.ASCE
Volunteering allows you to bring positive, measurable changes to your community and professional family. You’ve probably thought about saying YES to a volunteer opportunity. But how? When? Does it work with your schedule? You are busy, and what will you get out of it?
My advice is simple: Say YES and say it NOW. And the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
Here Are Five Reasons Why Community Involvement and Volunteerism Will Improve Your Life:
1. Helping Someone Else Feels Good, and It’s Fun
Helping others allows people to be more socially engaged, and many individuals experience a feeling of extreme happiness when giving back to their community. Volunteering also provides a sense of satisfaction — which can help decrease stress. You’ll meet new people and enjoy being part of an organization that gives back.
2. You’ll Become a Better Employee (Or Employer)
Most volunteer opportunities require teamwork. Volunteering with others presents unique opportunities that you may not find in the workplace. You’ll have the opportunity to lead your peers, cultivate relationships with established leaders, and tackle challenges with limited resources (i.e., volunteers aren’t paid, and nonprofits often have slim budgets). This is an opportunity to showcase your problem-solving skills.
So how does working for free without any financial resources make you a better employee or employer? You’ll learn how to lead a team based on good will and trust. You’ll build loyalty and you’ll learn the importance of a budget and sticking to it.
Let’s say you volunteer to help plan a charity golf tournament, for example. The course fees are steep, and players expect a nice meal. You’ll need to work with a team to create a budget and fundraise, with the goal of covering all anticipated expenses in addition to the charity goal (perhaps a scholarship for college students). It may be hard to stay on-budget, and through the process you’ll learn to make tough decisions and improve your communication and marketing skills as you solicit sponsorships. At the end, you can return to your office and tell your boss that you led a profitable event, in your spare time. Imagine what you can do if you were given a leadership opportunity and the resources of your company!
If you are the boss, you’ll learn alternative ways to motivate a team without financial incentives and build the loyalty that every good staff team needs.
3. You’ll Build Friendships That Last a Lifetime
This one is personal for me. I have met and continue to meet many friends through volunteering. These friends helped me find new employment opportunities and provided counsel when I found myself in tough situations. The people I met have similar values and we instantly connected. I didn’t know anyone when I moved to a new state, and volunteering helped me to immediately connect with new friends. These relationships continue to grow.
4. Your Perspective Will Change, for the Better
Engaging within your community exposes you to different perspectives. In this digital age, we don’t always meet our neighbors. Participating in local volunteer events connects you, and you’ll learn what matters to others within your community. It’s important to hear from all stakeholders, especially as an engineer.
5. You’ll Reap Rewards 10x What You Put In
It really is a small world when it comes to our engineering community. You never know who your future boss or employee might be. It’s very possible you’ll meet those people while engaging with your community on a volunteer project.
The value of networking and building relationships is beyond measure. The more you actively engage, the more you’ll build relationships that may land you a new business opportunity. And, when you help others succeed, you succeed.
The next time someone asks if you’d like to attend a volunteer event or join an organization’s committee or board, say YES. And if you haven’t been asked, try attending an event and inquiring about opportunities. Every group always needs more volunteers. Trust me, there is a place for you where your skills and talents are in desperate need to improve your community. And if you’re doubting your skill set or number of talents, the most important attribute of a volunteer is passion. If you want to help, someone out there is willing to guide you. You simply must bring dedication and excitement.
I can’t say enough great things about volunteering with the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is an amazing organization and my professional family. But you don’t have to pick ASCE. I encourage you to volunteer with any professional organization whose values align with yours. It’s important to choose at least one. And remember that simply being a member of an organization won’t provide the maximum benefit. Being an active member will.
Your community is waiting for you and your actions make a difference. Every person counts!
About Lindsay A. O’Leary, P.E., CAE, LEED AP, M.ASCE
Lindsay O’Leary serves as the Executive Director for the Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and is based in Austin, Texas. In this full-time role, she is devoted to the advancement of the civil engineering profession. Lindsay worked in the fields of civil and environmental engineering for 10 years prior to joining the ASCE Texas Section staff team. Some of her favorite engineering projects have included the development of groundwater monitoring plans for waste containment facilities, assisting graduate students with the collection of landfill data to evaluate municipal solid waste during a simulated earthquake, and collecting groundwater samples at various Superfund sites. Lindsay enjoys cooking, gardening, practicing yoga, running, swimming, volunteering for STEM outreach events, and when vacation time allows, snowboarding. In addition to ASCE, she is a member of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about why you do volunteering work.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success