Seven Ways Volunteering Can Help Emerging Museum Professionals

Emerging Op-Eds is a community series that shares opinions and tips from our NEMPN members. Have an idea or a topic you’d like to share? Submit your idea here.

Seven Ways Volunteering Can Help Emerging Museum Professionals
By Amanda Hoffman

Our time is the most valuable commodity we can give the world. But after a full day of meetings or a long week at work, offering more of our time to volunteering is the last thing we want to think about. There are many personal and professional benefits to volunteer work that you probably never thought about, like experiences you can’t always gain during your daily work routine. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily hustle of our careers, but I encourage EMPs to take a step back to think about volunteering in your community.

1. Enhance your understanding of the volunteers you work with.

Volunteers are an integral and vital part of many museums and non-profits. For those of us who work with volunteers on a regular basis, we need to understand and acknowledge them – they deserve to feel appreciated and acknowledged! The best way to understand volunteers is to be one. If you begin to donate your time to different organizations, you understand what kind of an impact you have as a volunteer. Furthermore, you’ll notice the efforts those organizations make to ensure volunteers feel valued – like organizational perks, special events, or small annual gifts. That knowledge can help you make the volunteers you work with daily feel satisfied, and when that happens, everybody benefits.

2. Gain a better understanding of your community.

Ideally, everything museums do should benefit their members while reflecting what the community wants and needs in their exhibits, programs and opportunities. By being an active participant in your own neighborhood, you can improve your knowledge of what people actually want from their local institutions. When you donate your time, you’ll work with people you may not have met otherwise, building a diverse network of peers and friends.

3. Develop new professional skills.

You are probably developing skills everyday, but there are certain strengths you can develop outside your office that you might not have the opportunity to advance at your job. If you work behind the scenes in an office setting, consider volunteering in a public-facing capacity to improve your communication skills. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to give graphic design or social media administration a try, but those skills just don’t fit into your workload. Volunteering can allow you to try something new without impacting your day-to-day responsibilities at work. 

4. Determine precise career goals.

Volunteering can you help look beyond your current professional scope or experiences to discover that your true passion could be somewhere completely different. You’ll also get a chance to meet new people with similar interests. Some of these folks will be established professionals; by learning about their career paths, that could help determine your own. And, even if these new acquaintances don’t work in a museum, they’ll be able to give you invaluable advice. Take it!

5. Explore your work place needs.

Since volunteering doesn’t come with the same pressure as a daily 9-5 job, you can utilize this time to figure out what you are want in an ideal work environment. Workplaces are not one-size-fits-all, and it takes serious thought to decide which aspects of a work environment are the most important to you. Maybe you prefer a more informal and independent setting, or perhaps you work better under management that outlines daily tasks and goals. Maybe you want to work at a smaller or larger organization, so you choose to volunteer somewhere that gives you that new scope. Volunteering can help you figure out which style is best for you.

6. Build confidence.

Walking into a job interview or an important meeting with extra knowledge, diversified experiences, and an expansive resume can put you ahead of other candidates. Volunteering can provide you with a sense of purpose that can make you ooze confidence… the best boost for your career and personal life.

7. Giving back feels good!

Museums wouldn’t be where they are today without an active community of supporters. A big part of what attracts people to work in the museum industry is being able to perform meaningful and fulfilling work for the community. And this desire to do something good doesn’t end at 5 o’clock on Friday. Knowing that you’re helping to make your community a more connected place will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Apart from all the benefits volunteering can offer, it is also a lot of fun! I know it can be difficult to add another activity to your already busy schedule, but it will be worth it. Even donating one afternoon a month to a non-profit or charity can change your perspective and attitude in a positive way.

Amanda Hoffman currently serves as the Youth Programs Coordinator at the Tampa Bay History Center. She holds a Master’s in Museum Studies from the University of Aberdeen and a B.A. in History from the University of Central Florida. For more information, contact Amanda at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *