April was National Volunteer Month – a time to honor all the volunteers that contribute of themselves to improve our communities. The month also brings attention to volunteer recruitment, so maybe you’ve been thinking more about how you might contribute your time and talent. Our time is our most valuable gift, so I encourage you to differentiate strategic volunteerism that provides leadership enhancement opportunities vs. other volunteerism for altruistic reasons.
Volunteerism for altruistic reasons is personal and leads you to a cause that provides pure personal satisfaction, such as serving in a soup kitchen. While this is very important too, I’ll focus on strategic volunteerism to help you choose volunteer positions with visibility in mind.
The most obvious and accessible path is to choose opportunities within your industry or field of expertise, such as a professional association. An example would be women in commercial real estate getting involved with Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW). Stepping up to serve in professional organizations is especially important if you’re working in a male dominated field, such as engineering.
Once you’re settled in a volunteer position, don’t be shy about it. Broadcast your volunteer leadership roles in emails to the boss, at annual review time and even in social media. Unfortunately, women are less willing to toot their own horns, yet we absolutely must to be recognized and advance.
Look around your community, read the news about accomplished business leaders and the organizations they serve. If you are more thoughtful about determining who in a volunteer position is a powerful leader, then you can go after opportunities to lead with them. Think about the leaders you want to know, and find a volunteer situation that meets your other parameters.
Some volunteer positions can help you advance professionally and gain certifications. Toastmasters is the volunteer experience that provided this opportunity for me. I was already a seasoned presenter when I joined Toastmasters 20 years ago; however, I was joining to further develop my leadership skills.
I believe I have held every office in our club, serving several terms as president. Additionally, I served as an area director for our district. My volunteer job was a perfect match for the skills I wanted to hone – to develop leadership in others. In a volunteer organization, there are no bonuses or raises, so you must find ways to inspire your colleagues.
In my business, I wanted to become a leader of leaders, a developer of talent. The goal to be able to recognize the spark, then fuel that spark into greater leadership. Gradually, I developed step-by-step ways to hone in on the spark and groom the right person for leadership succession.
As I moved up to take more responsibility within Toastmasters, I became a more skilled delegator. Eventually, I was an area director, overseeing several clubs, coaching and developing other leaders. I had successfully leveraged my volunteer role with Toastmasters into one that provided exactly what I needed professionally. I developed better delegation skills, better meeting planning and execution skills, effective talent search and development in creating a succession plan both as a president and as an area director.
While I was taking my own skills to a higher level, I was also helping others, which is the pure essence of volunteerism. The opportunities with Toastmasters provided both the feel-good opportunity to volunteer and serve others at the same time I was growing my own skills and taking my leadership abilities to the next level.
If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you. Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.