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4 Reasons Why Loving Your Community Will Help Grow Your Career

Feb 02, 2017

Millennials are starting more companies, managing bigger staffs, and targeting higher profits than their baby boom predecessors, according to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report.

So, it’s no surprise that career and professional development are at the forefront of millennial’s minds. If you’re among the millennial set you may already be utilizing the top online tools to bolster your career, but you could be overlooking one of the most rewarding ways to catapult your professional development: community involvement.

The importance of local involvement is something community bankers identify with as relationship-based lenders who routinely extend their services beyond their velvet ropes and into their neighborhoods for the benefit of locals who call it home. Community banks prove that by getting involved, you can make powerful connections while building a flourishing, thriving neighborhood.

Woodlands Bank in Williamsport, Pa., is just one example of the support and involvement community banks are known for. The bank launched a media campaign supporting area businesses and nonprofits. As part of its campaign, Woodlands Bank identified four local nonprofits representing four different areas of need in the community—shel­ter, food, youth development and clothing—and provided monetary support when customers opened an account or interacted with the bank’s Facebook page. More than 9,500 meals, 100 nights of shelter, 90 outfits and 1,000 hours of activities were generated during the three-month initiative

As you set your goals for the New Year, think about making your community part of your career and personal growth plan. A local approach to your goals can propel you further than you think.

Need more reasons to get involved in your area? Learn how loving your community can help you:

1. Gain Valuable Networking Opportunities

You don’t have to attend formal networking events to meet other business owners and like-minded professionals in your area.

By attending volunteer events, you’ll encounter other professionals and residents in more low-pressure settings, helping you create more powerful connections than merely searching LinkedIn.

As a bonus, your fellow volunteers may end up as future customers, partners, mentors or investors.

Overwhelmed about where you can find other local entrepreneurs, leaders and professionals to connect with? Check in with your local community bank to see if they offer any networking opportunities for entrepreneurs in the community.

Eastern Virginia Bank’s POWER (Potential of Women Entrepreneurs Realized) program includes a combination of educational events, networking opportunities and enhanced bank services. “We found that so many of the women business owners had no place to turn for advice, such as writing business plans or getting financing,” says Gail Hubbard, the POWER program manager, “so education is a huge part of the program.” Connecting female business owners with one another at POWER events, through social media and via a membership directory, is a key component of the program, Hubbard says.

2. Add Skills to Your Résumé

According to the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey, 92 percent of respondents agree that volunteering improves professional skill sets.

Look for volunteer opportunities in your community that are tied to your professional goals while challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Learning new skills is exciting and you’ll also gain fresh experiences to add to your résumé and professional profiles.

3. Reflect Positively on Your Growing Small Business & Colleagues

By volunteering and investing your time into your community, you’ll show your peers and colleagues that you’re a team player who values growth and improvement on a local level.  

The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 revealed that just more than half (54 percent) of millennials are provided with opportunities to contribute to charities/good causes in their workplaces. Those provided with such opportunities in the workplace, however, show a greater level of loyalty, have a more positive opinion of business behavior, and are less pessimistic about the general social situation.

What does that mean for you as a leader in your office or as a small business owner? It means, you can help improve your company’s morale and get other professionals involved, encouraging a tighter knit, loyal and engaged group of colleagues and employees.

“I found the bank could be used as a catalyst to improve the community as a whole, said Jeff Oody’s ICBA’s 2016 Community Banker of the Year. When the assistant police chief in Starke, Fla., asked bank employees for help raising $5,000 for underprivileged kids, the community banker pledged to spend Christmas Eve dressed as an elf, dispensing candy if the team could double their contributions. In the end, more than $10,248 was raised, allowing seven-dozen grateful children to purchase clothing and gifts last December. Overall staff participation in volunteer civic activities is up 100 percent at the bank and its fundraising efforts dwarf previous levels since Oody became president four years ago. 

4. Grow as a Leader

Not quite ready for that top leadership position at your company? Getting more involved in your community gives you access to volunteer leadership positions, where you can grow and prepare yourself for that next big career jump.

“Serving on your homeowners’ association or PTA board, coaching a little league team, or joining a local Toastmaster’s can teach important lessons about conflict resolution, team building and strong communication, all of which can help you become a leader who helps others reach their full potential,” says ICBA’s chairman Rebeca Romero Rainey. The third-generation community banker serves as chairman and CEO of Centinel Bank of Taos, N.M. and believes passionately in the potential of tomorrow’s leaders to transform lives and organizations. The bank offers college scholarships to local high school students and encourages staff attendance at leadership development conferences.

It’s easy to see how community involvement and volunteering can provide valuable ways to grow your skill set and meet influencers in your area. Need some inspiration to get started? Consider the following:

  • Looking for a cause that’s important to you? Don’t be afraid to organize a group yourself. This is also a great way to grow those leadership skills firsthand!
  • Partner with other small business owners or local businesses and organize a fundraiser or event.
  • Write an op-ed about something important to you or your industry.
  • Get to know your local media and position yourself as a subject matter expert who can provide a unique perspective.
  • Volunteer your skills pro-bono. Local nonprofits will thank you!
  • Become a member or board member of a local charity. This is an excellent way to grow your skill set and meet other professionals in the community.
  • Coach or mentor young professionals just starting out or attending college.

Looking for additional ways to get involved in your area? Look up your local community bank and see how they’re helping (and join in)! Already partnered with a community bank? Join our conversation on twitter and tell us how getting involved in your community has benefited you and helped you grow professionally and personally. Send us a short video @ICBA #ILoveMyCommunityBank or email Carissa.hampton@icba.org with a written or video testimonial.



Community Bankers: Difference Makers 

Community Bankers: Difference Makers

Although April is Community Banking Month, we see Community Banks and their employees giving back and making a difference all year long. Take a look at just some of the many examples of how community banks impact their communities! 

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