Skills & Career Building

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

Alan Kay, educator and computing pioneer

Sapp explains that while there are a variety of skills that can be gained through association volunteering (communication, team building, event planning, budgeting), the main skill developed is leadership. “You learn how to lead a group of peers and those from a wide range of experi- ences and backgrounds."

"Networking is another skill that you can enhance through volunteering,” he adds. “Yes, networking is a skill! It takes effort and strategy to build a net- work of trusted colleagues, and not everyone is social butterfly. Volunteering lets you engage in a more active way and gets you connected to a network in a more active and struc- tured way, as well."

He also adds that volunteering pro- vides a chance to explore areas that the volunteer may not get to experi- ence in their current job. They might pick up new skills and be able to add them to their resume.

"As an individual, you build collegial relationships with a network that can provide support in a number of ways,” explains Sapp. “I know I have col- leagues within my local association that I go to when I need to bounce ideas off of them. It gives you a solid network of trusted contacts to lean on when you need advice. It is something you have to work at, though. Get involved and take advantage of the opportunity to connect in the volun- teer opportunities available to you."

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In terms of business, he says that volun- teering has a number of benefits - from building a brand as an industry leader to having a large list of contacts who can help in recruiting top talent for one’s business. He also says that, from firsthand experience, he has seen how volunteering can drive one’s career for- ward. “Volunteering builds your net- work, builds your leadership capacity, and opens the door to new career opportunities."

"You learn new ways to do things and how to operate in a wider circle of pro- fessionals,” he continues. “This really opens up the door to advancing your career. For me, it gave me access to a network of colleagues that were great support as I progressed in my career."

Kelley offers the view that the two most important skills that can be developed through association volun- teering are building effective teams and getting things done while in charge.

“Volunteer teams are often assembled in a manner that would never occur in a work place,” he observes. “The skills experience, demographics and desired outcomes of those volunteering have the potential of being much more diverse then a workplace team... In the workplace, while there is collaboration and discussion, at some point not all decisions will be made democratically, and someone is in charge and accountable. This is not the case with volunteers. While someone may be the

‘chair’ of a committee, it is a truly col- laborative environment where the chair may have to work, politic and convince people to make a decision in a certain direction.”

In terms of career growth, Kelley says that his own volunteer experience has been instrumental in his professional development. “I personally attribute much of my professional success and growth to the volunteer work I have done both professionally and personal- ly... It has helped me: become a better listener; build collaborative teams; effectively manage up; manage my time more efficiently; and create a net- work of individuals who are resources I can turn to for virtually any issue.”

Koenig explains that volunteering offers additional benefits, too, like learning how to multi-task, delegate, and be part of a team. She also says it helps professionals become noticed and recognized within their industry or to become “a mover and shaker."

It also is a way to demonstrate to peers how much work he or she can handle and further accelerate their career, as a result. “The more advanced you get in volunteering,” asserts Koenig, “the more people you know, helping you to con- tinuously build a larger network while maintaining relationships."

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