Volunteering a great way to develop work-related skills

I have been approached by a local non-profit organization to be a volunteer on their board.

Dear Working Wise: I have been approached by a local non-profit organization to be a volunteer on their board.

Is this something that can help boost my career? Should I inform my employer before I agree? — Near Volunteer

Dear Near Volunteer: Yes, you should tell your employer about your intent, because there may be conflicts of interest between your work and volunteer roles. Your supervisor may also be pleasantly surprised and excited about the new contacts and skills you will develop.

Volunteering is a great way to develop your work-related skills and learn new skills. Members of community boards are often called on to provide a variety of services — allowing you to stretch your abilities and increase your experience.

The commitment that you invest into your volunteer experiences could also be a benefit when you are looking for that next job — employers like to hire community-minded people.

Volunteering offers you the chance to make business contacts and raise the profile of your organization. It provides opportunities for you to learn new technical skills and develop transferable people skills necessary for career success. Some non-profit organizations will even cover some of the cost of specialized training for board members or volunteers.

Taking on a volunteer role can also give much back to your community and provide improved job satisfaction — people tend to feel better about their jobs when they feel better about their lives.

For all these reasons, volunteering can actually make you a more valuable employee to your current employer.

However, before you accept your new role, you should find out:

• How much time are they asking for?

• What is your job description? Is it a good fit?

• What are your legal liabilities as a volunteer?

• Do they want you to ask your employer for donations?

• Are there any potential conflicts of interest with your work?

• Do they want you to speak publicly on behalf of the organization?

• Will your volunteer role require your attention during working hours?

• What happens if you get hurt at your volunteer job? How will that affect your paid job?

• Has a safety and hazard assessment been done for this role? Are there safe work practices to follow?

Checking with your employer first and being prepared to answer these kinds of questions will reassure your employer that you have thought this through and have your employer’s needs and interests in mind.

Maintain an open dialogue with your employer about your volunteer activities. Keeping the lines of communication open will ensure your employer is supportive of your involvement and is aware of the kinds of new skills and experiences that you are bringing back with you to work.

National Volunteer Week is April 10 to 16. Do you know a volunteer whose efforts have contributed to the well-being of their community and fellow community members? Nominate them for a Stars of Alberta Volunteer Award.

Nominations open in May. To learn more, visit http://culture.alberta.ca/voluntarysector/stars.

Working Wise is compiled by Charles Strachey of Alberta Employment and Immigration (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca) for general information.

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