Want to Relaunch or Advance Your Career? Volunteer!

By Hallie Smith (MBA ’98)

I’ve always been pretty leery of New Year’s resolutions, but as 2016 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on how I’ve spent my time and energy in the past year. I’m certainly eager to contribute to the greater good in 2017. Community service has been personally rewarding to me, but there are great reasons to volunteer from a professional perspective. Volunteering can make it possible to build your network, explore new functional areas, develop new skills and take on leadership roles. Working with nonprofits can also provide a path to nonprofit board positions, which can be effective resume-builders for executive roles. Volunteering, as I’ve personally experienced, can also be an effective way to re-enter the workforce.

After Darden, I spent several terrific years at Deloitte. But when child number two came along, I decided to “stay home.” I quickly found limitless opportunities to volunteer in my children’s schools and our community, but I was looking for a better way to tap into my MBA skills. That’s when I heard about Compass, an organization that assembles teams of MBAs and other business professionals to provide pro bono strategic guidance to nonprofits. Next thing I knew, I was staffed on a Compass project for Horton’s Kids and, afterwards, was asked to join the Compass Board. When I was offered a position on the Compass staff this summer, I leapt at the opportunity. Today, I manage selecting our nonprofit clients, recruiting volunteers and staffing our project teams. One of the best parts of my new job has been working with our 16 partner business school alumni clubs, and especially reengaging with the Darden community.

Through Compass, I’ve witnessed and experienced these many benefits of volunteering. Volunteers not only leverage their expertise, but also find opportunities to develop new skills that can augment their professional capabilities. They engage with nonprofit leaders and make professional connections on teams. Compass team members see the impact they have on a nonprofit’s ability to carry out its mission more effectively and efficiently, and they often build lasting relationships with clients that extend long after the projects end. Many Darden alumni have not only served on Compass projects, but also have participated in Compass’ On Board program, where professionals are matched to nonprofit boards.

Just in time for the New Year, I’m thrilled to announce Compass’ 29 new Micro Projects in Washington, D.C., which will run from late January through May. We are also launching Chicago’s first round of projects in January.

If you feel as if your for-profit efforts at work are outweighing your philanthropic efforts in life, are looking to dust off your MBA or want to get involved in more substantive volunteer work, you may find a Compass project rewarding on many levels. Please visit http://compassprobono.org/ to apply for upcoming projects in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, as well as learn more about On Board — headed up by Nalini Rogers (MBA ’86) — and our ongoing projects in the D.C. area and Philadelphia. We would love to connect with you and help more Darden alumni than ever find meaningful community engagement in 2017!

Hallie (Hastert) Smith graduated from Darden in 1998 and now serves as Director of Consulting Programs for Compass.

If you are interested in exploring how volunteer opportunities might enhance your career, reach out to Alumni Career Services, and schedule time with a coach.

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