In professional associations, many leadership opportunities exist for volunteers. It is this powerful relationship between the association and its volunteer members that help organizations deliver their mission.
Throughout my career, I’ve had numerous leadership opportunities including my current role as IMA’s director of market advocacy. I have the pleasure to serve as a staff liaison to IMA’s three technical committees to ensure that these groups represent the interests of accounting and finance professionals everywhere.
Aside from the intangible benefits that volunteerism brings, such as a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and giving back, I see three tangible benefits that our volunteer leaders gain through their roles.
As I’ve observed from the volunteers I work with, participating on a committee can expose you to a variety of people with a common interest. Professional associations offer access to boards, committees, subcommittees, and ad-hoc groups—a plethora of opportunities for volunteers to broaden their networks and commit to a shared common goal. In my role, I get to strengthen my existing relationships with members, as well as meet people in my field with a multitude of perspectives from around the globe. Networking is important to everyone, regardless of your career level. Business contacts and even personal friendships can stem from volunteer positions.
Advancing Your Skill Set and Your Career
Volunteer roles help you gain experience in a particular area of interest, practice relevant skills in a safe environment, and learn what it takes to be an effective leader to aid in the progression of your career path. Going outside of your normal day-to-day job is a differentiator that also adds skills to your résumé. Volunteer roles can help you gain experience you may not otherwise be able to get.
Yet, as important as it is to step up and be a leader, it’s also important to step back, share your knowledge with others, and allow them to step up. The most valuable experience I’ve gained as a leader is learning to facilitate successful outcomes without controlling the process. True leaders assist in the process of grooming someone else to lead a task. Being a strategic thinker and creating opportunities for others is also a rewarding experience, as you watch others grow from your guidance.
Impacting a Cause
At IMA, our volunteers serve as a voice, not only within a group, but on behalf of the profession as a whole. Advocating for a cause enhances technical knowledge while helping the greater good. At IMA, our volunteers are passionate about serving the interests of small businesses, promoting sound financial reporting standards, and educating the business community about important issues that impact them in some way.
If you have an opportunity to take on a leadership role, go for it. These valuable experiences will help you expand your knowledge, create lasting personal and professional relationships, and make a powerful difference in the community.
Have you had an interesting volunteer experience? Did it exceed your expectations?
Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA