When reflecting on your professional career, the moments you connect with others around a shared purpose that sparks a lifelong commitment to an organization, a person, or a cause can really stand out. I vividly remember my first role directly out of graduate school, landing as a director, and a party of one, wondering where I would find like-minded colleagues who were experiencing similar situations to build a network.
Ultimately, I found my people and my network through NACE and I attended my first conference (and it was BIG). While there, I wondered how in the world can I make my way through this sea of people and opportunities. Fortunately, when I attended the annual Newcomer Reception, I was “adopted” by members of the association that had deep knowledge of the organization and wanted to share their wisdom with new members. Their message was clear: Get involved. And that’s exactly what I did. I found my people through the Liberal Arts Colleges and Majors Affinity Group. I branched out by volunteering to be a mentor; and I ran for positions on the NACE Board of Directors.
While I did not always find success initially, I didn’t give up. Thanks to the network of champions that I met along the way, I had the encouragement to think big and keep trying and I’ve ultimately had the opportunity to serve NACE in nearly all aspects of the organization, including as NACE president on the Board of Directors! And it all started thanks to interactions with another member, who volunteered their time and energy to provide me with the guidance and support I needed all the way back at that first NACE Conference!
Ultimately, what my experience has shown is how critical volunteering is to our profession and the world that we all navigate. I’ve learned during my years as a NACE member that to be a good volunteer, you must be inclusive and call on those who may need a nudge. We must reach back, so that everyone can share their knowledge and wisdom, because we all learn and grow when we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. The real impact of volunteering, no matter the association or organization, is the friendships and relationships that are created along the way. Our careers will sunset, but our connections will continue to grow. It’s important to remember there is a space for everyone at the NACE table, whether you raise your hand or are tapped by another member to consider opportunities.
Kathleen Powell is the chief career officer and associate vice president for advancement at William & Mary. She currently serves on the NACE Advocacy Advisory Committee and is a NACE past president and Kauffman Award recipient.