Monday, November 19, 2012

Making the Case: Asking Your Manager for Time to Volunteer

Even if you've done all of your homework to find the right volunteer role to advance your professional journey, you may be hesitant about asking your manager for the time to take on the role.  Volunteer committees are meeting during the workday with increasing frequency whether in person or via conference call.  Your gut instinct may tell you to turn down any volunteer opportunity that requires time during the workday, but hold that thought!

When I presented to YNPN Atlanta last week, the question about how to "get time off to volunteer" was a pressing one.  Making the case to your manager to engage in a Strategic Volunteer role is all about the ROI (return on investment) of your time allocated to the opportunity.  I find the following steps to be extremely useful in making the case:
  1. Do your homework.  Know about the volunteer role including expectations, time commitment, and schedule.
  2. Map the skills you can develop in the role to your professional role.  Utilize the Strategic Volunteering Action Plan to frame this work.  Remember to look at past performance reviews to closely tie the volunteer opportunity to development your company/manager will find valuable.
  3. Frame the conversation.  "I'd like to speak with you about a free professional development opportunity that will expand my professional network and skills while helping our company have a positive presence in the community.  May I have 15 minutes of your time to discuss?"
  4. Get manager feedback on your plan.  Be specific about the job description of the volunteer role, time commitment, and potential end result from a development perspective.  Even better to set up goals that you can measure against at the end of your volunteer engagement.  You'll want these metrics to develop your impact statements.  It's even more valuable if you work together to tie the opportunity into your official performance review/development plan
  5. Report back to your manager (and team) about the volunteer experience and its value toward your professional development.    
Then remember to use your best behavior as you're volunteering in your new role to keep your personal and professional brand intact.