Alumna: How volunteering can advance your career

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Joanna Gammon photoBy Joanna Gammon, '05

(Originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal)


Last week, I was in good company as a panelist of the first #NextGenCLT event.

The topic was community engagement, near and dear to my heart. Serving on boards and being involved in the community can help build a resume and network, make you a more rounded individual and help with skills that can advance your career. While community engagement is important to me, why should it be top of mind for young business professionals?

A few reasons:

  • Serving on boards and being involved in the community has helped build my resume and my network, made me a more rounded individual and helped me obtain skills that helped advance my career.
  • Employers look for extracurricular activities on your resume. They want to make sure you aren’t just successful in your job but successful at life.
  • The simple act of giving can lead to a much greater reward in the end. I also think it is a personal responsibility as we grow in our careers to grow in generosity.

It’s so important to start giving at a young age, even if it’s just a little bit. I think about all the people who helped me along the way: my parents, friends, even complete strangers who believed in me. I think about my university, UNC Charlotte, which provided me with a great education that helped me land my first job. It takes a community to raise a child. You were once that child. Give back to your community, your school, charity of choice and give a hand up to someone else.

Now that you know what’s in it for you and our community, the causes are limitless and confusing to navigate, where does a young professional start? Here are my tips:

  1. Hands on Charlotte and United Way are both great starting points. They offer a plethora of volunteer activities and can quickly get you plugged in. Also, get involved with your alumni association and the local Chamber of Commerce.
  2. You can also align career objectives with the causes you love! For example, I am a recruiter. On numerous occasions I’ve volunteered at Goodwill conducting mock interviews with those who are trying to find employment. I’ve also helped write resumes for men at McCreesh Place who were formerly homeless.
  3. Most boards, even young professional ones, require a minimum annual donation. Make sure you ask that question when considering joining a board. You need to be comfortable with that number and understand the importance of giving to that organization. Lead by example. You can’t go fundraise and ask others for money if you aren’t giving yourself.
  4. In the nonprofit world, you’ll hear “time, talent, and treasure.” You might start with just one of the three in the beginning. Give of your time – volunteer. Talent – if you are good with technology, build them a website. If you’re good with marketing, help promote events. Treasure – give money to the cause.
  5. How do you balance community involvement with work, family and other interests? I once heard someone say that you shouldn’t have to balance between them. Instead, we need work-life blending. My friends are those that I serve on boards with. My interests are helping others and volunteering. So it all kind of intertwines together.
  6. If you do not have a mentor, get one. If you do not have a bucket list, make one. Hold yourself accountable to professional and personal goals.

Once you have found the way to engage in your community, you might be joining a board for the first time. My advice for a young professional looking to secure a seat on an organization’s board is to pick something you are passionate about. Do not just sit on a board just to sit on a board. Contribute. Commit. Be engaged.

I read a blog recently posted by the CFO of Salesforce. He said, “It’s not about how people feel about you the day you start at a company; it’s about how they feel the day you leave.” I agree. I can take that a step further and ask, “At the end of your life, how will you be remembered?” So many people can be consumed by work that ultimately their careers alone define them. I think it’s important to focus on leaving a legacy for yourself - and what better way than by being involved in your community. Make a mark in the city you live in and in the hearts and lives of others. I challenge you to find your talents and use them. Get involved!

The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte is the academic partner of #NextGenCLT.  

Joanna Gammon is a graduate of the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte. The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research business school. Accredited by AACSB International, the Belk College of Business offers business education programs at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and executive levels. Find out more at

Photo courtesy