Quick, what pops into your head when you think about the concept of volunteering? Chances are, whatever you imagined doesn’t involve your IT skills. There are a lot of noble causes out there. Who doesn’t support saving all the puppies out there? And let’s be honest, IT isn’t always warm, fuzzy, and photo-friendly.
But behind the scenes, every organization benefits from IT services. Unfortunately, many nonprofits or volunteer service organizations don’t have the know-how, budget, or manpower to leverage those services, let alone maintain an IT infrastructure.
This is where you, the IT pro, can step up and save the day. How cool would it be put your knowledge and skills to work for a good cause? Here’s how you can start volunteering your IT skills today!
What Are You Passionate About?
First thing’s first: Are you an animal lover? Do you enjoy reading to children? Or are you focused on helping restore natural habitats? If you haven’t already, determine which causes interest you the most.
Very similar to how our trainers stress the importance of determining what you’re passionate about learning in IT, you should follow your passion in regard to volunteering.
Not only will it give you more purpose, it can make the work you do more fun. Because let’s be honest, sometimes IT can be a little mundane. And depending on the organization where you choose to volunteer, you might be dealing with sensitive issues. So, if you get to work on projects that both make an impact and are interesting to you, it’s a win-win situation.
Have You Volunteered Before?
It doesn’t hurt to reach out to an organization you’ve previously volunteered with and inquire if they could use IT help. Very few organizations (especially nonprofits) are going to turn down free help.
Many organizations might not even be aware of what they can do improve their IT operations. If that’s the case, use the goodwill you earned before and offer to audit their network. Or maybe even just test their hardware. If you’re newish to IT and need experience, volunteering can be a great way to get hands-on experience!
If you’re new to volunteerism, investigate if there are opportunities to get involved through work. Many organizations have a philanthropic arm, or are involved in charitable efforts. If that isn’t an option, who knows? Maybe you can help foster a culture of giving in your workplace.
Last but not least, turn to your family, friends, and coworkers for advice on volunteering opportunities. Because we’re going to bet just about all of you know someone who already volunteers their time in some way.
Brush Up on the Basics
There’s a good chance you’ll need to harken back to your early IT days when you volunteer your IT skills, especially when working with volunteer service organizations. You are likely to find that they need and will welcome the most basic of IT services.
For example, you might have a need to update hardware, configure a small network, and even clean up some HTML code. Oh yeah, if you’ve got some coding or programming skills, even better. Pull up a few nonprofit organizations’ websites. There’s a good chance you’ll discover there could be a lot of opportunities to improve their pages with some simple fixes.
Now, this isn’t to say you won’t have an opportunity to put your virtualization or cloud skills to good use, but a good rule of thumb is to start small and work your way through things, as need dictates. Which leads us to our final point.
Follow Up Your Efforts
If you choose to volunteer, make sure it’s for the right reasons. You need to have a genuine interest and desire to volunteer; it shouldn’t feel like an obligation. Also, don’t make it a one-time deal, especially if you enjoyed the experience.
Because we are talking about IT here, you know that maintenance is crucial to IT infrastructure. So, make it routine to return and check on things. Even better, maybe you can teach someone within the organization to perform basic maintenance tasks. Being a mentor is an incredibly rewarding experience.
And guess what? If you’re still working in an IT job, volunteering can provide a welcome change of pace for you, which can help you avoid burnout and build new skills. So, that’s another couple of reasons to be consistent in your volunteer efforts.
The bottom line: Giving back is a great feeling. The relationships you establish can lead to great references. You can get opportunities to use skills that you don’t get to use often. And most importantly, you have a chance to make a difference for organizations that are devoted to making the world a better place.
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