Enhancing Your Professional Life
Surprisingly, Volunteering May be the Way
by Kimberly Musselman
Have you ever wanted to make a difference, change a life, or impact your community? If so, then becoming a volunteer can help you achieve the training and skills to make it happen. The reward is that you get to achieve this personal goal and, at the same time, enhance your professional life. Volunteerism is a great career development tool for professional men and women. Employers and nonprofits can join forces to enhance the skills of people both in their volunteer capacities and their professional lives.
Whether you work at a private company, government agency or nonprofit organization, employees in today’s competitive market are expected to have certain skills where they can demonstrate leadership, superior communication skills, interpersonal skills, resource development and be a visionary. Participation in a volunteer organization helps employees acquire, improve or develop most, if not all, of these skills.
Personally, I have been a volunteer in various organizations for over 20 years, which happens to span the same time as my professional career. These volunteer experiences have enriched my life and have provided me with incredible opportunities for public speaking, problem solving, mentoring, negotiating, accountability as well as having the courage to dissent when necessary – all skills that are useful to me as an attorney and a prosecutor.
Following Your Passion
Most people choose volunteer activities that involve a cause for which they have a passion, and they promote awareness of that cause to their family, friends and co-workers. I have certainly done that but in recent years, I began looking for an opportunity where I could make a greater impact on my local community.
I have lived in the Melbourne area for 20 years since I attended Florida Institute of Technology as an undergraduate. Approximately four years ago, I was introduced to the Junior League of South Brevard by a person that I volunteer with in another organization. This group appealed to me because it is a training organization for women who want to learn skills to be civic leaders and tackle the issues that confront their communities.
I was excited to join a multi-faceted volunteer organization where women from varied backgrounds and professions come together to research the needs in their community, develop community programs, and fundraise to support and implement those community initiatives. It has been an invaluable education and I know that it helps me improve the skills needed for my job.
Employers Have a Role
I also encourage employers to look at the benefits of volunteerism for both the current and future employees in their organizations. For current employees, I believe that it is a cost-effective tool for career development and training. Employees gain a personal sense of fulfillment when volunteering and it helps them to be more energized, enthusiastic and engaged.
At the State Attorney’s Office, each employee may be granted up to one hour of paid administrative leave per week to volunteer at a mentoring or tutoring program at a local school or participate in a community service program that meets child, elder or human needs. Our State Attorney, Norman R. Wolfinger, promotes this because it supports the mission of promoting public safety, including proactive crime prevention and efforts to build and strengthen families and the character and competence of the children in our community. If every business organization or agency in Brevard would promote programs like this, there would be a mutual benefit to the employer and employee as well as an improved community.
When hiring new employees, employers should always consider and recognize the potential candidate’s volunteer activities as well as professional experience as it can be a good indication that the candidate has more experience in the essential skills of leadership, communication, innovation and teamwork. Also, as a business organization, consider having the employees participate in a group volunteer project because it helps to build strong sense of community and may in turn, enhance business opportunities. Employees and employers of Brevard should consider enhancing their professional skills by volunteering locally.
Kimberly Musselman is an Assistant State Attorney, in the Office of the State Attorney.