Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Paying It Forward - Volunteering

One of the ways you can build your brand that I mention in the talk is through volunteering some of your time or skills to help others. There are a variety of ways you can do this. A few examples:

  • Answering questions online
  • Helping some non-profit group (Scouts, churches, charities, etc)
  • Working for an industry organization (PASS, local user group)

I'm sure you could find many more ways to help out, but I think these are the main ones I'd recommend for technical people.

Some people think that volunteering isn't a place where you should call attention to yourself, or that you aren't being humble by doing so. My advice along these lines is as follows:

First, don't volunteer unless you really want to help someone. In other words, have a good moral reason for helping out and be comfortable if you don't get any recognition.

Second, don't call attention to this in general. Mentioning it on your blog is OK, but don't make a big deal out of it. If you learned something, or grew through the experience, talk about those things, don't talk about the volunteering part of it.

The exception I'd make here is if you are trying to get others to join you. Then it makes sense to promote the efforts.

Lastly, your resume (or CV, or in an interview) is the place to talk about things you do. This is the time you can promote yourself, and volunteer efforts enrich you.

They also take away your time, so if you want to continue, and if you did it for the right reasons you should, make sure your potential new boss is aware of this.

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