5 Actions You Can Take to Boost Your Career and Your Community

civic action community

We here in the 21st century love multitasking.

But despite our love for two-birds-with-one-stone productivity, there’s one place we could easily overlap, but often don’t: civic action and career advancement.

While many people may assume civic responsibility can be relegated to visiting the voting booths come November, there are opportunities for citizen action throughout the year, each of which can turn out to be a boon for your community and your social impact career.

Here are five ways to be a good citizen while also advancing your career.

Volunteer

Whether it’s for a cause you care about, a political campaign, or simply helping a neighbor, volunteering is a great way to get out in your community.

How to do it

To get started, search volunteer opportunities in your area—or even faraway opportunities that can be done remotely—using keywords that align with your skills and interests on Idealist.org. If you don’t immediately locate an opportunity that looks like a fit, consider making your own opportunity by reaching out to local organizations of interests to inquire about any volunteer or pro-bono support they may need.

Why it’s good for community

Volunteering has been shown to improve overall community happiness.

Why it’s good for career

When you volunteer, you open yourself up to new people, initiatives, and potential areas of interest, giving you a better idea of which issues you may want to tackle in your professional life. Plus, this type of organic networking will allow you to build your professional connections in a genuine way.

Volunteering also offers opportunities to gain valuable professional skills such as project management, community organizing, coordination, and communication.

Depending on your professional goals, you may opt to complete a skills-based volunteering project, such as those offered on Catchafire or Taproot. This option gives you the opportunity to share your professional skills in a pro bono format with a person or organization in need of them.

Pro Tip: Before you begin your new volunteer project, make a list of the skills you would like to gain during the experience so that you’re ready to proactively look for those opportunities during your volunteer hours.

Attend local meetings

No matter where you live, there is a group of people engaging in regular discussion and making decisions that will impact the community.

How to do it

Does your city, town, or neighborhood have a website? This is a great place to find information about upcoming community board meetings, town halls, and the like. If none are listed, it might be time to––gulp––pick up the phone and talk to a real person to see when and where meetings are happening.

When attending a meeting, it’s okay if you feel a bit intimidated at first. Start as a fly on the wall and don’t force yourself to contribute on day one. Taking time to observe the meeting and figure out the protocol will go a long way in getting you oriented and ready to lend your voice to the issue on the floor.

Pro Tip: Write a social media post inviting others to join you, and tag the organization in the post.

Why it’s good for community

Taking the initiative to simply show up can be the first step to beating apathy and fostering more engaged community members.

City council meetings, neighborhood watch gatherings, or other similar meet-ups might not seem ultra-important, but active community members make the difference between top-down and grassroots changes. Come with some specific questions, concerns, or input based on the agenda to make the experience as productive as possible.

Why it’s good for career

There may or may not be an opportunity to network with other individuals, but civic participation (and your career, for that matter), are long-term gains; over time your reputation as a concerned and active citizen will precede you.

Attending local meetings also offers insight into your community’s decision-making process. Offer to take meeting minutes, or, once you’re a regular, throw your name in the hat and run for a leadership position to gain valuable communication skills that directly transfer to your resume and professional life.

For example, as a journalist or professional communicator, taking charge of a meeting can develop your information synthesizing and communication abilities. Or, as an aspiring government employee, the on-the-ground experience of mediating conflict within a group or decision-making amidst disagreement can directly translate to the workplace.

Become a Member of a Board

Speaking of leadership, one of the lesser known (or perhaps just lesser considered) strategies for impacting both community and career simultaneously? Board membership. Nonprofits often seek individuals to serve in these important roles. Why not you?

How to do it

Again, this might take a bit of sleuthing on your part. Think about how your participation on the board could support your career goals and next steps. Check your community’s news networks, social media pages, and newspapers for announcements, or boardnetUSA to find board seats near you.

Why it’s good for community

By giving your time to a nonprofit making an impact in your community, you add an important voice to the conversation around how said organization is making that difference.

Why it’s good for career

Before you take on a leadership role, talk to other members of the board about what the roles and responsibilities entail. Over time, keep track of your accomplishments, including meetings, decisions, and changes that the board creates, and list these under this position on your resume.

Board members also do a fair amount of networking, requiring social and communication skills, as well as fundraising, a practice that calls for persuasiveness and tenacity.

Get published

Putting pen to paper can help you demonstrate your civic responsibility in a tangible way.

How to do it

Way back when, writing a letter to the editor was the only way to show that you were a concerned citizen, but we have many more options now. These include:

  • Publishing and sharing a blog post or open letter to your elected official
  • Writing a guest post on a well-read site in your community
  • Starting a letter writing campaign with fellow community members
  • Starting a Twitter chat or Facebook discussion in a public forum
  • Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (yes, you can still do that!)

Why it’s good for community

Through leadership by example, you help neighbors and friends recognize their own agency in effecting change. This also opens up the floor for further dialogue and discussion about local issues.

Why it’s good for career

Nowadays, potential employers Google your name and sift through your online presence to see what you’re all about; you want them to find examples that demonstrate your investment in improving the world around you, and nothing does that quite like published work.

Pro Tip: Take it one step further. If you have a website or online portfolio, link to the examples of published work that supports civic causes.

Commit to a year of national service with AmeriCorps

So you’ve volunteered, joined community discussions, taken on a leadership role, and gotten published. What could be left? You could up the anté by signing up for a year of service.

How to do it

You dedicate your time for a year to service––deep, sustained, volunteer action with an organization doing good in the world. Apply for positions in your home city or state, or around the country.

Why it’s good for community

Volunteer service helps people step outside their comfort zones, see how other people live, and experience how service can be a transformative force in the world. Additionally, service is often the lifeblood of organizations working for positive change around the world.

Why it’s good for career

A year of service can contribute to your career in the following ways:

  • Skills: Go afield from your studies––positions include roles in disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, health, and veterans.
  • Connections: Build relationships with like-minded professionals in your cohort and service site while working on shared projects.
  • Perspective: Begin to understand social problems and their solutions either experientially or through capacity building––most national service positions are located within nonprofit organizations.
  • Professional Development: Get training on practical career topics, such as building resumes, networking, choosing a career path, being a leader, and productivity.
  • Education Benefits: Receive a Segal Education Award, that supports your education goal, be it paying off previous student loans or putting it towards future study.

There are countless ways you can combine your civic responsibility and career goals.

What are some ways that you have found to combine civic responsibility and your professional goals? Comment below with your ideas.

 

Gina Edwards headshotAbout the author: As a social impact writer and editor, Gina equips grassroots changemakers with information and resources to create positive change in their communities on her site, Impact Explorer.

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Comments

  1. Great article, Gina! Thank you for sharing with us. I’m a corporate citizen and volunteer when I was a student for a long time. I think it’s something that values nowadays, helping others is so inspiring. And moreover, it’s a great opportunity for students or people who are currently unemployed to get some working experience or somehow to explain gaps in job history.

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