Volunteering Forum

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  • 1.  Pairing volunteer experience with professional development

    Posted 10-13-2020 22:06
    I've been doing a little reading about/research on skills based volunteering tonight and came across this article from idealist.org: How Volunteering is Useful for Career Development

    I know many of us think of volunteering as a way to give back - and it most certainly is! But it's also an awesome way to add to our personal and professional goals. It's more of a "yes, and" than a "no, but." 

    The author, Imani Darden, suggest mapping out your skills, then "making it count:" 
    1. Find the right fit - what connects your passions with your professional goals?
    2. Professional development game planning - what goals can you realistically set/achieve for each opportunity?
    3. Be prepared 
    4. Carve out time to commit to the project or engagement 
    5. Celebrate YOU

    I think these are some great suggestions, and they got me thinking about others that are likely out there. Have you linked your volunteer experience with your professional development? If so, how? If not, why not? 

    Looking forward to hearing from y'all!

    - Drew

  • 2.  RE: Pairing volunteer experience with professional development

    Posted 10-15-2020 09:23
    @Quinn Drew, this is a great spin on the concept of skills-based volunteering!

    I belong to a support group that hosts a yearly regional Saturday workshop...if they can get someone to volunteer to run the whole shebang. I heard the organization yelling (asking?) into the void several times for someone to volunteer. I knew my project management skills would be a great fit, but I am also very protective of my personal time.

    Finally, after the organization made a few more requests answered by crickets, I raised my hand to volunteer my skills.

    It was quite a lot of work to find a venue, speakers, people to donate snacks and drinks, raffle items and tickets, signage, flyers to get the word out, and pull together the agenda. To be honest, at times I wondered what I had gotten myself into! 

    But I met so many great people in the process, everyone excited and generously lending their talents, and so appreciative of my willingness to make it happen. The event itself went smoothly, and I talked with many people that day who told me how much they got out of the workshop, some people driving 2+ hours to attend (in a snowstorm, no less).

    It was a little chaotic, but ultimately such a fulfilling volunteer experience. I will likely raise my hand again when they ask--maybe with a collaborator next time!

    Also, it was a very different kind of project management from my day job, as I am used to managing more technical projects like software development, and I learned a lot from the experience. As luck would have it, I was assigned a project at work that included planning some events...it was meant to be, perhaps?!

    Maria Liccardo

  • 3.  RE: Pairing volunteer experience with professional development

    Posted 10-15-2020 09:42
    @Nick Kapling, this sounds similar-ish to your work with RHINO, what do you think? ​

    @Maria Liccardo, that sounds awesome! I've been on a few conference planning committees outside of my 9-5 job, but I also haven't really thought about that as "volunteering." ​I wonder why that is; it was a project I was contributing my time and skills to, without getting paid (which, described that way, absolutely sounds like volunteering). Looks like I've also got some re-considering/re-defining to do!

    - Drew

  • 4.  RE: Pairing volunteer experience with professional development

    Posted 10-16-2020 14:08
    Edited by Nick Kapling 10-16-2020 14:24
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    You're correct, Drew! I think that the reason my volunteer engagement with RHINO has lasted over 3.5 years (and is still going strong) has a lot to do with how it plays into my strengths/expertise as well as how it's developed them further. Let me explain.

    In the winter of 2017 I was desperately trying to make my life better. I'd left a dead-end job and moved to a new city. The only problem was, it was getting close to half a year, and I'd had plenty of interviews and second interviews but still no job offers. So, I went to an industry conference for writing and publishing, also with the intent to put myself out there and look for work. I spoke with an editor of RHINO who said they were looking for people to join the board and that the magazine was close to my new home in Chicago. It wasn't until I had a follow up call with the Editor-in-chief that I realized this was a completely volunteer organization and had been for 40 years. This seemed par for the course: I've been involved in literary journals, magazines, and print publication for about 20 years, but I've never done this work as a paid, FT job. Some of the positions I've held were term-based or expired because I graduated from an institution. However, I wasn't sure volunteering was what I should be jumping into.

    Years and years later, RHINO has kept my attention and time because of the unique opportunity it offered me in 2017 and the opportunities it continues to offer--not only to be a reader of submissions, but also to connect with like-minded people across the editorial table on a regular basis to talk poetry and look closely at poems. It is an honor to be a part of someone else's publishing journey and a joy to be a part of their ultimate success.  Beyond the love of art and talking with folks, I use some of my admin acumen as the database manager and assistant contracts manager, positions that keep growing and changing as I need and as the magazine needs. 

    Taking this volunteer opportunity on was a huge risk. At the time in 2017, it was scary to commit to at least a full year (which is what the then-editor Ralph asked) of meeting for 3 hours in person every other week in addition to the reading and the database work I'd be expected to do on my own time, when I didn't have a stable income. Lest I'm burying the lead: Putting myself out there was the right decision, though. I was new to town and had an instant community of people in the writing and teaching world. I had events to attend. I made connections and through those connections found out different job opportunities which lead to interviews and a paid position teaching in the creative writing conservatory of a Chicago arts high school. It also lead to my first and second poetry readings, as well as the motivation to send out some more work and get some more by lines myself. I offered RHINO some administration time, and some time reading and thinking about poems, but ultimately I got the better deal. I am more connected to my city and the thriving arts community here than I ever would have been on my own. Being in the room (and Zoom call) when decisions are made has been an extension of my learning and developing--as an editor and as a writer. Most recently, I got to stretch my skills when I was asked to be a part of the graphic reviews issue in September--reviewing a book of poems in a visual manner. It was a lot of hard work, and I loved it. My art is by no means the best of the bunch, but it helped a poet get more attention for her recent book--which came out in May, when nothing like book readings or conferences--the normal ways we sell books--could happen. 

    I would encourage anyone--even if volunteering isn't, say, as high on your priority list as finding a J-O-B--to give volunteering based on your skills a chance. You never know where it could lead you next.


  • 5.  RE: Pairing volunteer experience with professional development

    Posted 10-18-2020 12:51
    @Nick Kapling - Thank you so much for sharing your story! I love the tie between taking a risk and increasing your skills. I've found myself in similar spaces before and have shied away from the risk in favor of safety. While those times have felt comfortable, they certainly haven't always helped me grow and push forward. I really like thinking about using volunteer opportunities as ways of sort of testing out the waters of some skills you're still building as well as sharpening ones you already know are strong. (Ok, #nerdalert - it's kind of like deciding between powering up your strongest Pokemon to make them even stronger, or powering up some mid-level ones to advance them slowly but surely.) 

    Regardless, you've given me a lot to think about here. Thank you!

    - Drew