One of the first steps toward networking your business is to become more visible in the community. Remember that people need to know you, like you and trust you in order to refer you. Volunteering can position you to meet key people in your community. It connects you with people who share your passion. It gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talents, skills and integrity, as well as your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and breadth of your network.
People who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Thus, you should be volunteering with organizations or causes for which you hold genuine interest and concern. If administrators or other volunteers perceive that you are in it primarily for your own gain, your visibility will work against you, and you will undermine your own goals.
Volunteering is not a recreational activity; it’s a serious commitment to help fulfill a need. To find an organization or cause that aligns with your interests, you need to approach volunteerism with a healthy level of thought and strategy.
Start by asking yourself the nine questions below.
1. What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your spare time?
2. What hobbies do you enjoy?
3. What sports do you know well enough to teach?
4. What brings you joy and satisfaction?
5. What social, political or health issue are you passionate about because it relates to you, your family or your friends?
6. Based on the answers to the first five questions, what are three organizations that you can identify that appeal to you? (Examples: youth leagues, libraries, clubs, activist groups, church groups, homeless shelters) Choose the one that most appeals to you, and research the group online and in the community.
7. Now that you’ve researched this group, will it give you an opportunity to meet one of your professional or personal goals? If so, visit the group to “try it on.”
8. Now that you’ve visited this group, do you still want to make a final commitment of your time?
9. Are other group members satisfied with the organization? (To learn this, identify three members of the group to interview in order to assess their satisfaction with the organization. Consider choosing a new member, a two- to three-year member, and a seasoned five- to six-year member to interview.)
Once you’ve done the research required to satisfactorily answer these nine questions, join a group and begin to volunteer for visibility’s sake. Look for leadership roles that will demonstrate your strengths, talents and skills. In other words, volunteer and become visible. It’s a great way to build your personal network.