There is a constant hum that echoes at the back of the minds of humankind; an unmistakable urge to make progress and surpass previously set thresholds. Its identity is both anonymous and ubiquitous. Some refer to it as their driving force, while others chalk it up to basic instinct. Whatever the source, moving forward is an essential part of refining ourselves. Instead of being stuck in a continuum of idleness, it’s important to be perpetually bettering the parts of us that still need growth. One of the best ways to achieve that is to open yourself up to new opportunities and ideas by serving as a member on a nonprofit or committee board. The best part is that it’s reciprocal. Not only is it beneficial for your own life, it benefits others as well.
A contribution is an essential part of progress. As a Trade Show Industry leader it’s important to innovate, add value to and expand existing parameters. You can accomplish this by contributing to the conversation and initiating change. Whether this is done for a nonprofit organization or a corporation that’s related to your industry, you can make your mark and change lives. It takes a considerable amount of effort and time, but it is well worth the investment if you approach it with passion, enthusiasm and accurate expectations.
Here are some general guidelines to follow before joining a board. Do your best to work through them as you embark on a pursuit that can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling jobs that you will ever experience.
From passion to progress
Joining a board is something that should be given careful consideration. If the nonprofit or industry board isn’t something you can sincerely dive into with meaning beyond your expressed interest, then you may need to reconsider where you’re putting your effort. It can be hard work, and if your heart isn’t in it, you are likely to lose motivation and question why you wanted the job in the first place. You need to be ready and willing to dig deep. What are you great at doing? What issues do you want to tackle or embrace? Once you have identified what your skills and passions are, it’s time to move on to the next step.
From idea to actuality
Shift your focus from researching and self-reflection to putting yourself out there. While there is a possibility you could be recruited to join a board, often times you will need to reach out to the organization you are interested in. Be prepared to be open to any of the following:
- Approach the organization you’re interested in and ask if there are any vacancies on the board. If they aren’t currently looking for someone, consider volunteering with them to gain experience and to show them how effective you can be.
- Let everyone in your network know what you are pursuing and if they have any leads. Someone might know of an organization that fits within your interests and is looking to fill a position.
- Many times boards have defined roles that need to be filled, such as marketing or finances. If there is a role that you know would be well suited for you, don’t be afraid to play up your skills and let them know that this is where you shine.
- Like with any job, you’ll be interviewed by the board to ensure that you will be a good fit for their organization. This process goes both ways. It’s their job to make sure you are qualified and will be a good fit; it’s yours to make sure that they meet your expectations about who they are and what they do.
It’s no secret that serving on a board comes with an array of benefits. Beyond the pure satisfaction that comes with being able to work on something you care about, it brings about professional gains that can’t be duplicated anywhere else. Here are some benefits to be on the lookout for:
Your professional and personal circles will expand.
If you are serving on a board related to your industry, you’ll gain access to key players that work in your profession. Forming relationships with them and their peers can be a great opportunity to gain and share information about your profession which can further your career. This is a well known and expected benefit, so there is no need to feel guilty, as long as you are sincere and continue to contribute in return. Have a give-back policy where you help out others who are just starting their service, as a way to pay-it-forward.
Working for a non-profit organization can give you unique access to people of diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to meet influential members and important donors. As your reputation for hard work grows, so will your network. Larger organizations are often on the lookout for experienced leaders, so the connections and credibility you build with your current organization can help advance you in the future.
Satisfaction from contributing to a cause that matters.
Not much compares to the feeling of knowing that we are making a difference in our world. It doesn’t matter if it makes a small impact or big one, every unselfish act creates a ripple effect. Seeing the change that your contributions make can create a deeper passion and a greater understanding of the importance of your work. People will be able to sense your commitment to your community and beyond, and that brings with it an attractive quality that can’t be replicated or bought.
Sharing your voice with others.
Organizations create boards not only for logistical and practical reasons, but to gather valuable input from those that contribute. They want to hear your ideas, opinions, and expertise, and it’s a great place to share them. You can have a voice on what impacts you professionally and personally, from how money is raised to how the funds are used. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Your resume will thank you for it.
Your position on a board with an organization speaks volumes about your trustworthiness and value. It’s a public declaration of your authenticity and value as a tenacious go-getter. Your connection with the organization is something to be proud of and the endorsement is definitely something you should put on your resume or professional bio as evidence of your proven leadership skills.
Increased leadership skills.
Great leaders are created from an innate desire to make a difference by utilizing their specific skill sets and stretching themselves in areas that need cultivating. Nothing displays leadership more than how you handled a crisis or a time of change. Being on a board can involve taking risks, such as implementing a new strategy that you came up with. Your collaboration with others shows a willingness to exchange ideas and sharpen your diplomatic skills. All of these increase leadership experience with plenty of opportunities to refine your talents.
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson admonishes young entrepreneurs to “never look back in regret,” but to “move on to the next thing.” Fortunately, life affords us the chance to progress, but in order to move forward to the next thing, we must look around with awareness to what those opportunities are. Serving on a board can greatly accentuate your life and career, and knowing that is the first step. It just might be the best opportunity you didn’t know was waiting.