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    Build Great Leaders Through Volunteerism

    What makes a great leader? Some traits that come to mind might be decisiveness, confidence, empathy, and the ability to motivate a team. No matter the traits, each skill is gained through practical experience, and, as the world recovers from the COVID crisis, the workforce can now turn their focus toward their personal and professional development. Similarly, the unprecedented times we have all witnessed in the past year have shed light on the need for volunteers in communities. Volunteerism provides benefits far beyond the obvious help to charitable causes—it is also a catalyst for developing leadership skills in working professionals.

    How Volunteerism Shapes Professional Success, a study conducted by Markitects, Inc., surveyed 90 working professionals with an average of 24 years in the workforce to assess the effect volunteerism has on professional development. Out of the 90 participants surveyed, 83% of respondents listed leadership as a skill they acquired, improved, or developed as a result of volunteering.

    Volunteering for a charitable cause can expand capabilities in an individual that will launch a pathway to leadership in the workplace. Here’s how:

    1. Volunteers participate outside of their comfort zone.

    Employees who report to the same office or work from their home every day may not find themselves outside their comfort zones very often. A change in environment encourages an individual to gain new perspectives. Volunteering allows individuals to be put in front of new challenges and step up to the plate to tackle problems they might not otherwise face. Utilizing specialized expertise in a new environment is an especially great way to build those professional skills.

    2. Volunteerism helps build a network.

    Volunteering is a perfect opportunity for networking because participants have access to an array of new faces. Interacting with a new, diverse group of people presents an opportunity to work on communication skills while increasing a contact list and knowledge base in multiple industries.

    Connecting with others also allows individuals to reflect on who they are and what they stand for; bringing that passion and a new set of professional contacts back to the workplace can be invaluable to one’s career.

    3. Volunteerism can encourage the development of soft skills.

    While one’s everyday workload will help employees develop ‘hard’ skills (technical training in a respective field), volunteering can develop the participant’s soft skills. Soft skills include integrity, adaptability, and creativity among many other traits important to leadership. In a recent study by Indeed, of 1,000 hiring managers, the top five attributes of top performers at their companies were problem-solving, effective communication skills, self-direction, drive, and flexibility—all soft skills. An individual with these skills will more easily inspire and motivate others to grow personally and professionally—making that individual more suited for leadership roles.

    4. Volunteerism teaches planning and organizational skills.

    A great leader is also a great planner and organizer. Rallying a team of people behind a unified cause in a volunteer setting is an accessible practice in leadership. Volunteering often requires planning meetings, organizing events, and coordinating with others. Participants learn how to set a goal, define an effective course of action, and track results. These skills learned through volunteerism are transferable through all career paths and are especially important in leaders.

    There are so many amazing causes and organizations out there, each needing volunteers to thrive. Getting involved takes commitment, but those who give their time for free are building the foundation for an abundant career and personal life while accelerating their climb up the professional ladder. Every hour given in the form of volunteering is a chance to see unique challenges through new perspectives, build relationships, and master new skills.

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    Celeste Cater

    Celeste Cater joined SWBC in June 2021 as an intern with the Corporate Relations division. Celeste was previously involved with a local non-profit, where she created social media content, did grant research & proposal writing, and planned events. Celeste’s responsibilities here at SWBC include creating and maintaining the division’s social media calendar, writing community bios for SWBC employees, and assisting with many day-to-day tasks for upcoming community events. Celeste is currently a student at The University of Texas at San Antonio and plans on graduating in December 2021 with a Bachelor’s in communication.

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