A candidate asked me if volunteering for charitable causes or community work would help his career. I began by explaining that these kind of issues are more significant as you move towards senior executive roles, where displaying great character matters most. Public companies especially tend to look for a positive image in their key players. I recall several confidential conversations with successful IT leaders, who purposely joined the same charities as their bosses and mentors, seeking face-time and bounding, that would ultimately transform into support for their professional agendas.
Is it horrible? In concept volunteering should be about the cause first. However, many well-known companies combine their noble initiatives with their business agenda. They often publicly tie their profits directly to their contribution to a charitable cause. This behavior seems to be fully accepted in our society. We often have retail events hosted by prestigious department stores where the more we spend, the more they donate to the charity of their choice. Do we ever think about how they select the charity for their events? With profit being the driving factor, they often select a well-known organization, which supports a cause that would likely attract their target demographic.
This can work for you
If you have an attitude, where any good cause is good enough, you can be very affective at tying volunteering to your career. Just find out what charity your organization supports and cross reference it to the activities listed in the Linked In profiles for your executive team members. You will find that 80% of them personally support exact same charity. Express your interest at the office and ask one of the senior guys for an introduction. Hanging out with execs after hours, while contributing to company-recognized charitable cause, will certainly help you prosper.
Furthermore, when looking for a job and browsing Linked In, pay attention to where senior leaders in your field like to volunteer. This information will help you with your search. You can easily look up necessary information to start attending charity events, where you can network, and build relationships that lead to great job opportunities.
Beware of career harming aspects
While, generally having volunteer work on your resume, attests to your good character, not all of ot is looked at the same way. It is not only that you are better off with larger, better known charity on your CV, you also want to be supporting the “right” cause.
Ridiculous?! Absolutely. However you are likely to fall victim to prejudice and ignorance, if you support causes that aren’t main stream or widely accepted. The cause you support, may give away your ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, social circle, age or political views, which may reduce or even dismiss your chances of employment. I knew a executive, who was passed-up for a promotion because his passion for pet supporting charities and movements, prevented his superiors from taking him seriously.
In conclusion, I must remind you that we work for a living and not vise versa. We should enjoy the freedom to participate in activities that we truly believe in. However being cognizant of potential discrimination we might face, may help us treat our resumes as a marketing ad that appeals to the masses. Being strategic and weighing pros and cons, before adding any information to your resume is the right approach in today’s market place.