Building a professional network isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and thoughtful effort. As someone who has helped people network for their careers or their businesses for the past 15 years, I have taken on networking at scale, including building a pipeline of relationships from scratch for several programs for a higher education institution. But I was not always the expert in this subject matter. I remember what it's like to not know where to begin.
If you're earlier in your career, or just getting serious about building a professional network, there are many steps you can take to get started. In this blog post, I'll cover one of my favorites: volunteering.
People ask me all the time, "How did you build your network?" The answer is that it took years of attending events, volunteering my time, and giving back. While there are many paths you can take to build your network, one that I recommend to anyone is volunteering.
Volunteering is a powerful way to show up for your community and make the world a better place. It may not always be thought of in the context of your professional career. But, through volunteering opportunities, you build connections — and you never know where those connections can lead.
I have volunteered for a nonprofit, Prospanica, since 2016. In my time with this organization, I held roles from VP of Professional Development to Treasurer to Executive Vice President, and now I'm the President of the New Jersey Chapter. I was also able to build my Power Team in the process. I believe it's important to have an attorney, accountant, tax consultant, and banker all in your corner — I call this the Power Team. Your Power Team is how you will scale in business and in your career.
Volunteering for Prospanica has assisted my network and my career in a number of ways, and this can apply to any entrepreneur or working professional. What are the professional benefits of volunteering? Here are a few.
Volunteering for an organization such as Prospanica not only allows you to network with the people in your local chapter, but also with the board. Making connections with different types of people in various positions across the organization can be very valuable. Plus, volunteering for a national organization means you can build your network with board members in other cities and states. Whenever you need assistance professionally or personally in another place, you'll have a connection in these cities who may be able to help you get one step closer to your goals.
I am very passionate about giving back to my community, and volunteerism allows for you to give back to the community with like-minded individuals. All the people I meet via Prospanica are volunteering, not getting paid, but have a similar mission of assisting the Hispanic community and helping them to excel.
Find an organization that you are excited about, and you will likely meet people who share your interests. For me, I love assisting with programming for professional development, networking, and recruiting events to give Hispanic professionals a chance to advance their careers. Where do your passions lie? It makes networking easy when you know that you share similar passions with your fellow volunteers and board members.
Beyond networks, volunteering can have other benefits for your professional life. One of those benefits is the opportunity to better develop your leadership abilities. Even for someone like me who held various senior leadership roles in my career, my work with Prospanica helped me to build my leadership skills.
Volunteering allowed me to take charge of certain programming, enabling me to work with others and contribute to the mission of the organization in the process. My leadership skills were also honed by the work we did with the broader Hispanic community, including events and various initiatives such as strategic partnerships and volunteering through Jersey Cares for our members. Being responsible for initiatives and results within the community helps you grow as a leader, which can translate to positive growth in your career.
Volunteering for an organization can also provide you with the opportunity to build additional skills that you may not be able to build through your job. For example, I served as Treasurer for Prospanica, which meant I was exposed to profit and loss statements and budget statements. Dealing with these pro forma statements was not a part of my day job at the time! But the lessons I took away from it had huge benefits.
Thanks to the exposure I gained in my time as Treasurer, I have a better sense not only for the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, but also my own business, Borja Consulting Group, LLC. Those learnings and skills I gained through volunteering enable me to make better decisions based on my numbers.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and help causes you are passionate about. Volunteerism shows that it’s not just about you, but about assisting others and being a servant leader.
As a bonus, volunteering has a number of professional and personal benefits, including building your network and developing skills to add to your resume and LinkedIn profile. There are many other paths you can pursue toward building your network as well. For more about networking, check out my website or explore episodes of the Dr. B. Show podcast.
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President of Borja Consulting Group, Dr. Jairo Borja, DBA, is on a mission to elevate small business owners and entrepreneurs to reach their full potential. “Dr. B” is a sought-after speaker, author, consultant, and host of the “The Dr. B Show” podcast, highlighting minorities in business. Listen at www.drbshow.biz.
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