7 Ways Volunteer Leadership Can Help Your Career

By Al Rickard
Arrows of Leadership - 7 Way Volunteer Leadership Can Help Your Career

When you volunteer to help lead a membership organization such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you benefit from the experience at least as much as the organization benefits from your service, according to Sylvia Escott-Stump, MA, RD, LDN, past president of the Academy and a longtime Academy volunteer leader. Escott-Stump marvels at the leadership and management experience she has gained from the leadership opportunities the Academy has afforded her.

"I've gained skills that translate back to my job," says Escott-Stump, director, dietetic internship, at East Carolina University. "[The Academy] does a tremendous job in adding important dimensions to my knowledge base. All the learning opportunities through [the Academy] leadership roles, I have been able to apply."

What can you gain from volunteering? We asked the experts — professionals at organizations who work daily with member volunteers. Many of these professionals volunteer their time as well, holding leadership positions in the American Society of Association Executives and The Center for Association Leadership.

Here's what they had to say.

Leadership Training

Volunteering offers first-hand insights into how to effectively lead an organization. Directing volunteer leaders and staff, you can manage political situations and think strategically.

Make Contacts

Relationships can be extremely important in your professional life; what better way to build relationships than through a shared volunteer commitment? As one volunteer leader puts it, "The real value of volunteering is the network of colleagues and friends I have assembled over many years. It is a source of insight, inspiration and support for me."

Learning Laboratory

Volunteering gets you out of your day-to-day routine and lets you gain new perspective on problems and situations. You can explore, test and share ideas with colleagues, paving the way for fresh thinking and perspectives.

Identify Critical Issues

One volunteer says his leadership role helped him learn about an important development in an Internal Revenue Service regulation that directly affected his organization.

Build a Knowledge Network

Trading knowledge with colleagues can pay dividends. Learn what others are doing in their organizations that can be applied at your organization. Shorten your learning curve with this access to sources with the most reliable and up-to-date information on issues that affect your profession.

Shape Your Profession

What happens in your profession affects all who work in it. A consultant in the association profession says he wants "to make an impact on the profession and help move it in the right direction," which in turn affects his own career. "I also want to ensure that certain projects and programs have a voice and are done correctly."

Strengthen Your Resume

People with strong values and abilities are usually those who serve in volunteer leadership roles. It looks great on a resume and the experience gained through volunteering can position you as a valuable asset to any company or organization.