Jumping into the business networking game might be a bit too strenuous for a geek’s first attempt at trying out and developing his or her people skills. One low-risk way to develop people skills is to volunteer.
Volunteering serves a number of purposes: first, you can practice being with non-geeks in a non-threatening environment. Usually when you volunteer, you’re welcomed with open arms. Whatever social hierarchy exists in your world disappears when you volunteer, they’re just so happy to have you.
Second, volunteering helps to make your community and the world a better place. And that’s good, right?
Third, the intrinsic personal rewards of giving and service are vast. Volunteering, whether in a school for underprivileged kids or in a food bank or helping to clean-up a community park, brings massive satisfaction.
Fourth, people skills are all about getting to know people, how they act, behave, feel. That’s often difficult to do in a professional setting. But in the context of volunteering, it’s easy to really get to know people, to talk with others about their hopes and their despair. Again, an easy entry point to learn more about human beings — a laboratory, if you will, for geeks and social skills.
And finally, volunteering is the greatest networking opportunity on earth. Many successful people give their time and money to organizations. When you volunteer, you meet a vast array of potential business associates who you get to know and they’re able to get to know you in a relaxed, working on a team environment. They’re able to see your skills and find out what a fine person you are because you’re there volunteering. Here are some areas you might think about volunteering:
It is not well known that the biggest problem faced by many people in poorer areas is homelessness. Once someone loses a job, it is very difficult to get back on their feet. By volunteering in housing programs you can help homeless people receive mail, apply for and get new jobs, and then eventually work their way to a new home.
You can volunteer food kitchens, food banks or even community gardens.
Helping disadvantaged folks to find jobs can also be rewarding. By helping others learn job searching skills like resume writing and interviewing, you not only help them, you develop your own people skills.