This counts too

At some point in my career, I learned to include my volunteer work in my LinkedIn profile and to treat it as real work experience.

I have done a lot of volunteer work in various capacities and for years never made it part of my work story because, while it was time and effort I donated willingly, it was unpaid work, and I didn’t think it would receive more than an “Oh, that’s nice”-type of response.

Last week I read an article in Education Week about high school students who participated in a mock interview situation to develop their interview skills. What I learned is most students ignore the jobs they do for free — jobs ranging from taking care of siblings to helping organize church fundraisers to helping neighbors with home improvement tasks. The career coordinator interviewed in the article said students usually leave this type of work off their resumes because they “don’t correlate it with leadership.”

The students participating in these mock interview sessions are fortunate to receive guidance from career counselors who show them that the decisions they make to help others counts as real work.

But what about the students who do not have the opportunity to learn from career counselors? I hope that they, like me, realize that volunteer work is REAL work at some point in their lives and that they come to this realization sooner rather than later.

What’s my point?

There are many volunteer opportunities in nature education. As independent professionals, we donate our time to specific situations. If we’re honest, sometimes it is out of genuine interest, and sometimes it is out of feelings of obligation. Whatever the motivation, how do you think about these situations? What is the story you tell yourself about the situation and your involvement in it?

Do you let the experience whittle away at you or do you treat it as an example of the leader you are?

Which posture is your default posture?

If you wrote a job description for each volunteer position you've held, which leadership skills would you discover?

Tania Marien