Solopreneurs and new business owners, especially those just starting out, can benefit big from volunteering in their communities. Not only does involvement help organizations in need, but it can also lead you to new professional connections, allow you to develop new skills, demonstrate your leadership capabilities, and enable you to beef up your portfolio.
Powerful stuff! But as you dig in and commit your time and energy to volunteerism, be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Volunteering should be a win-win. The organization and the community should benefit from your involvement; the experience should give you a positive return on the hours, talent and effort you’re investing to the cause. It should enhance, not detract from your personal and professional life.
Here are a few signs and signals that you may have taken on more than is good for you and/or your business:
- You’re unable to find time to network to effectively build your business.
Although volunteering gives you the opportunity to make connections, it might not afford you the ability to directly promote your business or services to the people you meet. If your commitment takes too much time away from your business development activities, you could be missing out on attracting new clients and generating revenue.
- You’re not “present” with your family – even when you’re in the same room with them.
It’s likely that physically you can’t always be around your loved ones as much as you’d like to when working on your business. So when you are, they deserve the attention of your whole brain. Being in business for yourself takes plenty of mental energy in its own right, adding significant volunteer responsibilities on top of that will further push you to your limits. If you’re constantly distracted and thinking about other things when in the company of your family and friends, consider re-evaluating and adjusting your volunteer roles.
- You’re irritated rather than energized.
Volunteering should make you feel good. Sure, you’re giving precious hours and talents, but if the volunteer opportunity is the right fit, you’ll nearly always feel rejuvenated by your commitment. If you find that you’re consistently dreading meetings, getting annoyed by emails and phone calls from others in the organization, feeling resentful about donating your time and skills, or all of the above, you might need to cut the cord or drastically set some boundaries on what you will – or won’t do – as a volunteer.
Again, volunteerism is a marvelous way to breathe life into your business and personal life. Just be aware that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Before you commit, do an honest assessment of the amount of time you can – and are willing – to spend. If you’re already committed and have found yourself on the verge of burn out, make a change – and don’t feel guilty about it.
Has volunteerism played a role in your professional life? How have you kept your volunteer commitments in check so they’ve continued to work for – rather than against – your business?