In 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was working 100% remotely, and although I have always been an introvert, only interacting with colleagues and students through a computer screen was very difficult for me. I struggled to feel connected to the world. Then, one day, I received an email from NACE asking members to consider becoming a mentor. It sounded like a great way to help others, but feelings of self-doubt began to seep in due to my impostor syndrome.
Was I even qualified to be a mentor? What if no one selected me to be their mentor? What if I am not helpful to my mentee?
Maybe it was my sugar rush from the many gummy peach rings I devoured during the pandemic while working from home all day, but I decided to ignore those feelings of self-doubt and instead thought to myself that I’ll just go for it.
It’s been two years since I made that decision, and I have mentored three incredible career services professionals. I have also been a member of both the Mentorship Program Enhancement and Career Readiness Integration task forces for NACE.
Based on my experience, I would strongly encourage anyone who is thinking about accepting a volunteer opportunity to do so! As a NACE volunteer, I have been able to:
Contribute my strengths to the organization. I may not be the first person in a group to initiate a conversation, but I enjoy getting to know people by hearing their stories. When I was on the Mentorship Program Enhancement Task Force, I volunteered to conduct interviews with mentors and mentees and use the findings to brainstorm ways to enhance the mentorship program. The findings from the interviews contributed to the final report that was shared to the leadership team at the conclusion of the service term.
Collaborate with a variety of NACE members. I have worked with NACE members from a variety of geographic locations, backgrounds, and industries. Everyone brings such a unique perspective to the table. Learning about each individual’s perspective led me to critically examine the beliefs I held and open my mind (and heart) to new possibilities.
Find a greater sense of purpose. I am that person who adds a task to my to-do list after just completing it. Why? It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I have always been achievement oriented. However, during the pandemic, I was feeling lost and helpless. Having the opportunity to mentor career services professionals reignited my sense of purpose in life.
In the words of the late Kobe Bryant: “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.” Looking back, I am glad I did not listen to my inner critic because volunteering has brought me a tremendous amount of joy. Now, when that doubt starts to return and I start to think about the chances of failing a new endeavor, these words win: Go for it.
Julie Nguyen, Ed.D., is the senior associate director of career education at the Suffolk University Center for Career Equity, Development & Success in Boston. She is a content creator and assists students with their career development journey.