Joining a Board May Advance Your Career (Part 1)

Joining a Board May Advance Your Career (Part 1)

Many women volunteer for good causes. Perhaps you belong to a group that raises funds for a local food bank or women’s center. Maybe you help organize the winter coat collection for those in need, or head the group that will run in a mini-marathon to support cancer research. You may serve on a committee at your child’s school or help send packages to those serving in the military. There is no shortage of needed participation.

Volunteer service is important to your career. When you applied for college, you included it on your admissions application. You probably also list it on your resume, perhaps even on your annual work assessment. Being altruistic is admirable, but you might be able to get a bigger ROI on your volunteer service. One smart way to do that is by becoming a member of a board of directors.

Begin by researching the board position you are interested in and do a review of board composition and current members. Look at the organization’s mission statement, funding sources, and budget. If possible, obtain a copy of their by-laws. If they raise money and the amount tops $25,000, they are required to file taxes on a form 990. These are available online through a variety of sources. You might also check Charity Navigator to see how they are ranked based on how they spend their funds.

The most important step, after your research, is to let someone on the board know that you would be interested in joining the board if a position becomes available. You might prepare a paragraph that details your volunteer experience and what skills you could bring to the board. Don’t make the common mistake of waiting to be recognized for your past efforts. Oftentimes, board members and selection committees are unaware of frontline volunteers.

You may be wondering why board service would be a plus for your career and whether it is really worth the time and effort. It is. In addition to showing that you are a caring individual, it looks good on your resume. It helps to highlight your commitment. It also showcases your leadership skills.

In addition, it’s a terrific way to network. People who sit on boards are often well-connected in their community or field of practice. They also frequently bring a wealth of experience with them. By observing board dynamics and interaction, you can learn how to effectively run a board, how to professionally debate an issue, or how to get your own ideas heard. You might also find a mentor or helpful colleague, and hear about new employment or professional opportunities.

If your board represents a local organization, you may find that you can move up the board structure to the state or national level after a period of service on the local board. Or you may find that you can serve as a committee chair, or become part of the executive committee, or even be selected the board chair. Each of these adds to your leadership experience.

The next time you find yourself signing up for that race or volunteering for a cause, take a few minutes to consider whether you can and want to do more. If you do, board service is a great option.

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