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  • Sandy Lawrence

Virtues of Volunteering

Your best and most rewarding part of your career!

Sometimes we ponder – is there anything out there that I am missing? We reflect upon our job satisfaction and where it is going. But, what is missing? What have I learned that I can ‘give back’ in some way?  We shift our ideas to volunteering, but wonder what is involved and much time do I have to put into it?  The bottom line: What do I get out of volunteering (WIIFM)? I was recently at a dinner meeting for a local Project Management Institute (PMI) chapter where I was invited to be part of a panel of women who personified Leadership in Project Management.  One particular question posed to me related to the impact volunteering at PMI had on me personally. This made me think - a lot. I have been an active volunteer for their local and global initiatives since 2005.  Doing so gave me opportunities to visit over a dozen cities in 5 separate continents; places where I would never have gone if not for volunteering. I’ve met and created friendships and bonds with hundreds of people from countries all over the world. In retrospect, how was it that I was so fortunate to have had these fantastic opportunities? Over the past 15 years, I have grown and matured in my volunteer efforts and duties, from performing tasks assigned me, to driving and influencing others. This journey has taken me through an evolution of volunteering; an evolution where I believe are six specific stages. As I moved up through these stages, I experienced and saw some natural abilities being exhibited and exposed; some coming out that I never realized I had! All of these stages helped me along my career path from a doer, manager, leader, ideator and influencer.  Each of the six stages have their own growth and maturity attributes that can help broaden your personal and professional desires. They are:

1.    Knowledge / PDUs: This is your starting point to support your passion.  Volunteering at PMI offers Professional Development Units (PDUs) to be applied towards maintaining your annual certification requirements and continue on your professional journey. While not a salary, PDUs are considered by most a type of currency which helps them justify their volunteer efforts. Volunteer commitments can range from a single event to one of regularly-scheduled events; some perhaps involving traveling. 2.    Connections / Networking:  Who can I meet?  When you start signing up for different volunteer efforts, you can meet so many different people!  Some will become lifelong friends and confidants! I remember attending a keynote speaker event with the intention of meeting new people. I ended up sitting next to a man who introduced me to the Leadership Institute Master Class (LIMC) program; an introduction that led to a journey that took me to places beyond my imagination. 3.    Diversity: What else can I learn?  Volunteering for PMI gave me opportunities to apply knowledge gained while earning my Masters in Curriculum Technology. For example, I’ve built exam questions, beta tested exams, evaluated exam applications, written content for books, and even created a new relationship initiative within PMI and the military through the Military Liaison Program.  Opportunities abound and are limited only by the amount of time I’m willing or able to invest. 4.    Mentoring: Who can I help? My passion with PMI, combined with working at two different Department of Defense Headquarters, gave me a new means of helping those who have served our country. I became a mentor/coach to veterans transitioning out of the military looking for their next role in life. I was able to share my commercial experience and my PMI certification-associated knowledge to help veterans look at Project Management as a career. I also introduced military personnel to the Project Management Institute and the enduring value of earning a PMP certification. 5.    Advocating / Influencing: How can I help? While helping veterans either 1:1 or in small groups, I was driven to reach more veterans who were seeking the same information. The result? I found myself putting pen to paper to write a book and navigate the logistics involved in publishing it. In 2015 I co-authored my first book, “The Transitioning Military Project Manager.” We now have 5 published books in total with over 5,000 copies in circulation. 6.    Innovating / Shaping: With the success of our local chapter PMI military liaison efforts, we then went global. We provided presentations to other chapters, Regional PMI events, all the way up to PMI leadership symposiums. In a relatively short period of time, we created a ground swell of interest with numerous local-level chapters wanting to help serve those who have served. The result became a PMI Global-adopted program supporting over 70 chapters within the United States to date.   While there are myriad values and benefits associated with the act of “volunteering”, the same holds true for them all: 1.    You will always meet new people. Good, bad, ugly – you will establish new friendships, and also allow you to hone your people skills! 2.    You will get a pulse on your business community in terms of trends, market changes, etc. This is especially valuable when for military in transition or transitioning from one industry to another. 3.    You will find satisfaction and feel good about the actions you put forth (Servant Leadership). 4.    You will find out more about who you are, what you believe in, and what you are passionate about. * * * “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” ~ John Ruskin

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