As you develop through your career path, where you choose to spend your time can have a lasting impact for you.
While we all need to put the hours in at work, our involvement outside of the office can have just as big of an impact on our careers.
Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in a number of organizations outside of my ‘day job’. These organizations have ranged from trade associations to non-profits to affinity groups. Each has had a lasting impact for me.
Being involved in trade associations at the local and national levels has broadened and strengthened my network of business contacts. While my involvement with non-profit organizations has given me a way to give back to the community in a way that is more than just ‘writing a check’, these groups are also a way for me to fulfill a passion – to help those in need (especially children).
Through both the trade associations and non-profits I have also been given an incredible opportunity to grow and expand my skillset by serving on the organization boards. In business people hire you because they like you and you can prove you are capable of doing what they need. But it can be hard to prove your capability until you get hired or promoted. Board service is a great opportunity to prove and demonstrate what you can do. A working board is also a safe space to learn a new skill or hone the ones you have – to learn and practice leadership often long before you are given leadership responsibilities at work.
Most recently I was asked to join an affinity group as well – a group of individuals in similar work positions and levels across a variety of industries and organizations. The age old adage that ‘It’s lonely at the top’ is true. As you advance through the leadership ranks you have fewer ‘peers’ inside your organization. That means you often have fewer people you can talk to as the need for confidentiality increases. It is hard to talk about an issue with an employee when the outcome of the decision could impact their job. That is where an affinity group can be so beneficial. This is a group of people who understand the issues you face and the decisions you are struggling with. They are a safe place to talk through an issue and explore all of the implications a decision may have.
Regardless of the type of group you join – from the school PTA to an international advisory board – being involved on a board or with a group can open new doors for your career and your life, and provide the sounding board you need. Besides, you never know who may be sitting in the chair next to you and where you may cross paths with them again in the future.