I have read and heard from many folks that volunteering and becoming a member of a local industry organization are both good things to do. I’ve been hearing that advice for years. In fact, I’ve given it, as well. But it wasn’t until I started my own business that I decided to get more involved. I contacted IABC St. Louis because they are a communications organization and that’s what I do – whether through copywriting, marketing or social media. They were also looking for volunteers for their Marketing committee, so it felt like a win-win. A few months later, the Marketing VP on the Board needed to step down and I was asked to take her place.
Other than the “feel good” aspect there are several reasons volunteering for an industry organization is a great idea:
- The ability to share your expertise
- The chance to test your skills outside of your regular business environment
- The opportunity to get an inside look at how the organization is run, their strengths and weaknesses
- A strong line item on your resume. A volunteer position shows that you are respected in your field, and that you value sharing your knowledge and make time to build your skill set and experience outside of business hours.
Like I told IABC, “What’s the point of all these great ideas if I can’t put them into practice?” If you don’t have a great deal of autonomy or you work for a company that isn’t as forward-thinking as you might be, an organization is a great place to test a new marketing strategy or social media tactic.
WHY ATTEND A NETWORKING OR INDUSTRY EVENT?
It was months after I began volunteering that I attended my first IABC event. To be very honest, I wasn’t expecting much more than a group of tired executives extending their day by another couple of hours to hear another couple of executives talk about communications. But I went, with the intention of hiding in the back and live tweeting to the organization’s followers. I’d make myself invisible – sit in the corner with my iPhone and my MacBook and take furious notes, tweeting quotable sound bites.
What I got instead was an eye opener. I was surrounded by like-minded individuals interested in learning about how to take their skills to the next level. I ran into an old colleague or two, and met a handful of really talented, kind professionals, exchanged a few business cards, had a lovely dinner and got some great insight into what’s next in communication – marketing, social, content, etc.
The whole evening was worth much more than the $35 fee. So, I urge you to find an organization like IABC St. Louis and not only to attend but get involved! It boosted my resolve, gave me some new energy, introduced me to new people, and fed me, too – what more could you want?
Get involved. Get talking. Start listening. Shake hands. Exchange business cards. This is the true meaning of social – Connect. Interact. Share. Learn. Grow.
INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS ARE GREAT FOR:
College students interested in learning more about their field of study
Young professionals who want to take their career to the next level
Mid-level managers who want to grow their network and increase their visibility
Senior executives who want to engage with their peers, master new trends, or share their knowledge by speaking at an upcoming event/seminar.
If you fall into one of these categories, here’s how to get started:
- Ask colleagues (instructors, peers) in your industry to what organizations they belong
- Google search for a list of organizations with chapters in your area.
- Follow local organizations on platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to get a good idea what they are about.
- Contact a Board Member about volunteer opportunities
- Research the benefits of joining, and reach out to new and veteran members to get their take on membership.
- Attend an event to get a feel for what the organization is about, how it’s structured and the number and types of people who attend.
Go on, get started! And then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how it’s going for you – I’d love to hear about your own experiences!