The Value of Doing Good

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Wall Street's reputation has taken a few hits lately, many of them prompted by the recent New York Times op-ed by an ex-Goldman Sachs exec which focused once again on the "greed" factor of firms putting their profit motives ahead of their clients' best interests. For those finance professionals who may be questioning their goals, there could be some comfort in knowing there are ways to take control of one’s professional and personal life through philanthropic and volunteer efforts. In other words, by doing good.

It is important, however, that these efforts be more than mere window dressing and PR, says Matthew McCreight, managing partner at Schaffer Consulting, a management consulting firm with corporations on such things as strategic direction and leadership capabilities.

In an interview with eFinancialCareers, McCreight says that besides the positive impact, your volunteer efforts are a chance to expand on your professional learning and knowledge in a new and creative way and that can only help in terms of career advancement. It also doesn't hurt that the CEOs and senior management of many Wall Street firms sit on the boards of many philanthropic and volunteer organizations.

As for how volunteering helps in your job search, McCreight says "You can gain important skills and often at times in your life when you might otherwise be considered too “junior” or “young”.  And employers do look at non-profit experience. If two equally qualified people are applying for a job, and one has the additional experience volunteering in another organization, I would guess that person is more likely to be hired based on experience, initiative and energy."

You should also consider putting your volunteer efforts on your resume. "Unless it is completely at odds with the sort of job for which you are applying, it seems like a natural thing to include it," said McCreight, "so the prospective employer has as strong a picture of your abilities, interests, and passions, as possible. Again, if you are applying to a place where you feel you need to “hide” your volunteer activities, you may want to keep looking."

Finance professionals operate in a hectic, competitive, high pressure and numbers-oriented environment. Therefore it's often difficult for someone who is already stressed to understand the value of one more thing that could fill up his or her busy schedule.

McCreight says that's why it's important for employers to lead by example and encourage staff to pursue their passions and avocations in several ways. He says one of the reasons he was attracted to join Schaffer years ago was the example set by its leaders. "They were highly successful at their careers," says McCreight, "but they also had significant outside interests."

He suggests that companies encourage their people to pursue their passions and avocations. "Think of this as being in your business’s best interest! People who are getting other experiences and perspectives, as well as staying 'fresh' from outside activities, will be much better contributors to the success of your organization. It is a cruel paradox when organizations that pride themselves on having “knowledge workers” look down on staff who want to expand their knowledge by being involved in the community or the wider world.

For job seekers, consider doing volunteer work. You never know who you'll meet and it just may lead to a job, or at least connections to other people who are doing good.

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