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Career Coach: Volunteer to Boost Your Career

The Career Coach talks about how giving a little of your time can give back to your career.

You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if its a little thing, do something for others something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)

Now that the holiday season is a wrap, you might think that the time of giving is over. But why not make giving a habit all year and see what benefits it can bring? The most valuable gift you can give is to volunteer your time. Give time to your industry or the community and youll be amazed at the difference it makes to others and to yourself.

Volunteering rewards you while you help others.

Whether youre bored at work, freelancing, or looking for work, volunteering can lift your spirits and provide new opportunities. There are countless places and ways to help. Whether you volunteer within your industry or outside it, with industry-related organizations or schools, or in the community at large, you will reap unexpected benefits while making a contribution.

Volunteering is not only good for the soul, but can be good for your career. Volunteering will introduce you to other professionals, experience gained through volunteer work can be invaluable and volunteering can help you stay current if you are unemployed. Volunteer work shows future employers youve got drive and initiative. Volunteers have to be organized and manage their time well. But for volunteering to be a career boost, you have to view it as a job, not a hobby.

Volunteering expands your network.

Volunteering inside or outside your company brings personal exposure. A lot of people get better jobs because their names get out through volunteering. Volunteering can help you develop new contacts and job leads.

Volunteer work with an industry-related organization expands your network of job-related contacts. Volunteer to organize panels and invite speakers to participate. Contacting potential panelists is a great way to introduce yourself to industry people you admire. If you dont know where to begin or who to invite for the panel, ask leaders of the organization for a few names to get started.

Volunteering with an industry related organization like Women in Animation or SIGGRAPH can have tremendous benefits. Here is an example: A reserved young man volunteered to help produce and organize a career boot camp hosted by SIGGRAPH. His quiet determination and tremendous follow-through showed everyone he worked with that he was a dynamo. A producer from Sony asked SIGGRAPH for a recommendation of a junior producer and everyone at that meeting simultaneously called out this young mans name. (That man was not at the meeting, or he would have been keenly embarrassed) He had proven he could do the job in a volunteer situation, and it opened the door to a new job and new career for him.

If there is an event, conference, seminar or festival youd love to attend, but cant afford the fees, volunteer to help. ASIFA, Women in Animation, SIGGRAPH and the Visual Effects Society all have events which they need help organizing and presenting. The Annie Awards, produced by ASIFA and held in the Los Angeles area to recognize outstanding achievements in the animation industry is being held on February 7 this year. To volunteer, call (818) 842-8330. If you are shy, volunteer to greet people as they arrive at the event. Youll have an excuse to introduce yourself.

Another benefit of volunteering with an organization like SIGGRAPH, is that volunteers are sometimes rewarded with free membership.

Volunteering helps you grow professionally.

Volunteering can help you grow and develop additional skills. You can tackle responsibilities you may not get in your current job. These new skills and experiences may lead to a new career.

If you need to learn skills but cant afford the cost of classes, volunteer to teach what you know in exchange for classes in what you want/need to know. Dont feel you know enough to teach? Volunteer to help the school in other ways in exchange for classes. Maybe they need some help in designing a brochure or preparing illustrations or animation for classes.

Volunteer to work on an independent film. If you are a compositor but what you really want to do is light, offer to work on a film as a lighter and compositor. When the film is finished, you can add a sample of lighting to your demo reel.

Volunteering improves your attitude.

Are you burnt out? Volunteer to work with kids. The enthusiasm of young people will remind you why you got in this industry in the first place.

Volunteer to demonstrate your talents at events. Caricaturists and cartoonists can often draw a crowd at fund-raising events. You get a chance to show off your work and public appreciation can be good for your morale.

Volunteer to speak at your childs school. Theyd love to hear how cartoons or movies are made. While you may feel uneasy about your level of expertise, the kids would love to hear what you have to show and tell. (Remember to bring some audio visual aids such as a tape).

If you just want to give back to the community, help at a food pantry or shelter. The people running these operations are inspiring to be around.

Passionate about politics? If you live in America, 2004 is the year to become involved with a presidential political campaign.

Sometimes its just fun to get involved in an activity outside your comfort zone and work with people you ordinarily would never meet.

Volunteering can improve your communication skills and help you become a good neighbor in your community. Youll find that doing good is not only good for your spirit and attitude, but can be good for your career. Give more in 2004.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a career coach, recruiter and hiring strategist. Volunteering has helped her immeasurably in her career and she urges others who are shy to get out and give some time to an event or group. Shes recruiting lighters, animators, modelers, texture artists and color compositors for a photoreal retro sci-fi feature.