If you ask Michael Allen, he will tell you that volunteering is contagious; that’s how he got his start with the Blue Crew and volunteering in 2011.
He had just joined Independence Blue Cross when an enthusiastic associate (and passionate Blue Crew member) told him about the company’s volunteer program and encouraged him to sign up. He thought it would be interesting to try something new, so he signed up for his first volunteer opportunity — a beautification project at a local historic graveyard in Philadelphia.
Catching the Bug
The rest is history — Michael has been an active Blue Crew volunteer ever since.
“I was hooked after that project,” he said. “I had a great time. I got the opportunity to meet new people, including other Independence associates, and give back at the same time. It was just a positive experience all around.”
Expanding His Role with the Blue Crew
Since then, Michael has supported dozens of volunteer projects. Last year alone, he donated more than 100 hours of service! Most importantly, his passion for giving back has only continued to grow.
“I love giving back. It builds your empathy for others and helps you understand people from other backgrounds,” he said. “Most importantly, it feels good to know I’m making a difference in the lives of people who need it the most.”
Supporting a Great Cause
Michael’s passion and commitment to volunteering are evident, which led to his induction onto the Blue Crew Advisory Board. In this role, he serves as an ambassador for the program, helps select projects and events, solicits new volunteer opportunities, and leads at least two projects a year.
One of the projects he led this year was the Philadelphia UNCF Mayors Masked Ball, a fundraising event that provides scholarships to deserving students in the community — it’s also his favorite volunteer project.
“Besides the fact that we get to dress up, it’s a lot of fun and you get to support a great cause — education,” he said.
Eight years after he first joined the company, the tables have turned, and now Michael is the one encouraging other associates to sign up to volunteer with the Blue Crew.
He said, “I tell people, ‘Don’t think about it, just do it. Get out and volunteer.'”
While giving back to the community is a reward in itself, Michael believes that volunteering can help boost your career experience by providing valuable professional development opportunities.
“It’s a great way to build and develop skills for the workplace,” he said. “My volunteer experience has definitely helped me in my new role.”
When Michael recently accepted a new position as an Account Support Representative in Sales, he realized how much volunteering had contributed to his success.
“Being in a new role brings new people and a whole set of different responsibilities into the mix, which can be overwhelming” he said. “My volunteer experience helped me build key skills that I was able to use to adjust and ultimately be successful in the position.”
Get Ahead at Work with Volunteering
Here are four skills that Michael gained from volunteering, which he believes helped him be successful at work:
- Patience. When you’re volunteering, you work with diverse people and perspectives. Even though you may not agree on something, you learn to tolerate differences of opinion without getting angry or upset — it’s about giving back to the community.
- Flexibility. When you’re volunteering, you’re focused on getting the task done, regardless of what comes your way. So, you become good at adapting to change.
- Networking. You meet a lot of people while volunteering, including company executives and community leaders. I have developed so many new relationships through volunteering. Many of these people are now my good friends and coworkers.
- Leadership. As a project lead, I am in charge of leading a group of volunteers. This requires me to make decisions, influence the volunteers to follow my instructions, and motivate them to do a good job, which has developed me for future opportunities as a leader at work. This also helps build your confidence to lead others.
“Volunteering is a win for everyone — the community, local organizations, and the volunteers,” Michael said.
Take the Plunge
With so many benefits to volunteering, what are you waiting for? Check out local volunteer opportunities near you. Whether you want to give back or are looking for professional development opportunities, volunteering offers something for everyone!