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  • What's Your Reason to Volunteer?

    May 02, 2022 | By Catherine Neiner

    Best Practices
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    TAGS: best practices, volunteer, personal development, career development, member voices

    When I entered career services mumble mumble mumble years ago, I, like many of us, had sort of come into the profession without ever having said as a toddler, “Someday I want to work in a university career center.”  But once I got started, I knew this was for me. I knew I had a lot to learn, but I also felt I had a lot to give, so I wanted to get involved. I loved my state association and had gotten active, and I had some engagement with my regional association. But the shining star, the pinnacle, was, of course, NACE. I worked in a small liberal arts college that only others in my region … okay, my state … okay, my city knew. I was going to have to find a way to let NACE know that I was out here and had rolled up my sleeves and was ready to go to volunteer!  How was I going to do that?

    But first, I want to share why I wanted to volunteer for NACE:

    1. To build a national network of peers;
    2. To expand my professional development;
    3. To give back to my profession;
    4. To be involved in matters of importance in my field on a national level; and
    5. Most importantly, I just wanted to!

    So, I really, really wanted to volunteer for NACE for (mostly) all the right reasons. But, as much as I wanted to get involved, I was kind of intimidated for all kinds of reasons. For starters, no one “knew” me, as I was new to the profession. I also wasn’t sure of the time commitment or the best way to volunteer. And, I couldn’t shake the fear of, what if no one wanted to hear my vast wisdom on every single subject?

    Okay, it was time to put on my big girl pants and make this happen! First, it occurred to me that I should become a member. Duh. Once I did that, I started getting all kinds of emails and found out all the things that NACE does. In reading through all of this information, I was still trying to figure out where I would fit in and, more important, how to fit in.

    Then, one day, miraculously, I got an email from NACE that described the Leadership Advancement Program (LAP). It was like it was speaking directly to me! I applied and crossed my fingers and held my breath and kept saying “Pick me! Pick me!” They did! In LAP, I made my first network connections, and many of the people I went through the program with are my friends today, all these years later. We call on each other for advice or to kick ideas around. Also, I also got to sit in on a committee, which is how I learned not only what the committees were but how they functioned.  Several years later, I was invited to co-chair the LAP committee with—you guessed it—one of my cohort friends!

    After that first experience with NACE, there was a call for volunteers. I filled it out and have been doing so every year since.   

    And now, here are the Top 5 Reasons I am so thankful I worked up my courage and volunteered for NACE:

    1. I have gained a national network of colleagues that I can discuss anything with. But more important, they are more than colleagues—they are friends.
    2. I have expanded my professional development. Even now, all these years later, I see what others are doing and that helps me understand how to do my work better.
    3. I have given back to my profession. But not as much as my profession has given to me.
    4. I have been involved in matters of importance on a national level and had some influence on them.
    5. I just wanted to … still.

    Catherine NeinerCatherine Neiner is director of university career services at Georgia State University. Over her 25 years in career services, she served as director at several institutions, and has served on the NACE Board and as president of Georgia Association of Colleges and Employers. Catherine’s volunteer work includes committee work, mentoring, presenting, and writing. 

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