Too many individuals allow themselves to become isolated in their jobs. Outside of their work, they are unknown. In today’s volatile economic times, this can be a costly mistake, with staff positions being cut and freelance photography clients trimming budgets or, even worse, going out of business.
If your sources of income are drying up, one way to find new work is by expanding your network through membership in professional and community organizations. Having your name on a membership roster can give you access to potential clients.
But to make the organization work for you, you also must work for it.
Volunteer. Become involved. Help the group accomplish its goals. Volunteer to call members to attend meetings. In the process of making these cold calls, you are laying the foundation for a stable career. You are getting to know others and they are getting to know you. Should the time come to call one of these people for a job, it will no longer be a cold call.
Serving on Committees
Serving on committees lets others see your skills and how you work and communicate. Committees provide an opportunity to show what can’t be shown in a resume, portfolio or reference letter.
You are probably considered an expert due to your experience. People want to employ experts. It is a good idea to volunteer to lead seminars and workshops. While this shows your knowledge, it also shows your ability to communicate clearly your ideas to others. It shows you as a person who wants everyone to succeed.
Volunteer with more than one organization. They don’t all need to be within your work area so long as they help you connect to your community. Rotary clubs, the Red Cross, coaching a youth sport team — all of these can help you expand beyond your profession.
Industry leaders are involved in community programs. What better way to get to know leaders than to volunteer alongside them? The number of groups you join is not important. What is important is to be more than just another name on the membership roll.
Communication and Leadership
I have been working with college recruiters and admissions offices for most of my career. Many of the suggestions I’ve listed are what colleges look for when going through applications. They want the best, most well-rounded students to attend their college. It is the same with employers and clients; they want the best, too.
Networking builds communication skills. Volunteering improves skills in service roles and leadership positions.
All this volunteering is not just for the future; it is for right now. The benefits of networking help in current jobs. The foundation of building a network is giving. As we learn to give of our time and talents to those around us, we learn that our greatest rewards are the relationships we develop in the process.