A few days ago I was speaking with a leader in one of my trade organizations who was complaining about not having members involved. He was wondering why only certain people who join associations become involved. We have all joined different professional organizations during our careers for many different reasons. Sometimes we send in our dues to access information; sometimes we want to network within a certain community. Sometimes we don’t know why we have paid good money to become a member of a group other than everyone else in our field is a member as well. Whatever our motives, becoming part of an organization can empower us to become more confident in sharing our talents as well as reaching out to new contacts. But probably the best way to get to know a professional association is to volunteer, and specifically to volunteer for a leadership role. As one who has great experience in volunteering and leadership, I will share an anecdotal tale with you.
Years ago I joined a community. During my first welcome event, I was approached by someone who asked: “Why did you join and tell me all about yourself.” It felt so good to have someone reach out to me, as I really did not know anyone there. I was “pumped” and feeling that I had made the right choice coming. This was my golden opportunity to present who I was, what I stood for and what I hoped to offer. The individual took incredible interest in what I had to say and listened very carefully. Before I knew it, I was asked: “Would you like to join our membership committee? You would be perfect and a great addition to that group!” Suffice it to say I joined the committee and a year later stepped up to lead it. I ended up connecting with the most extraordinary people and being part of something much bigger than myself. This experience helped me to evolve into a strong, confident leader.
I share this story as a way to energize individuals to volunteer for leadership responsibilities. What we gain from these volunteer opportunities is far greater than what we might imagine. Another interesting aspect to my anecdote is that I was approached by someone to become involved. That is the true secret in how to successfully integrate new people into a professional organization. People need to be asked to volunteer and feel valued if someone takes interest in them. Most people will not volunteer by checking a box on a form on a website. It is the human contact which will excite individuals to become involved. So if you are looking for new leadership and volunteers, make each interaction count. When new people come to meetings or show up at events, don’t pass up the opportunity to talk to them and find out their passions. It is a simple way to create succession planning. And for all of us who want to network and meet new challenges, volunteering for a leadership position might be the perfect thing to do for professional growth.
Do you have your stories to share on volunteering in leadership roles?