Take your pick: Rotary, Kiwanis, college alumni groups … the sky's the limit on the number of organizations you can get involved in, but how do you know which group is a good fit?
Getting involved can benefit you in many ways—from networking, to the feel-good aspect of volunteering, to developing lasting personal and professional relationships. Yet, time is limited, and with a busy career and social life, you can’t possibly get involved with all the organizations in which you might be interested or with those who want you as a volunteer.
How do you decide which organizations are right for you? You have to think about your objectives in terms of how your service helps fulfill your own professional development goals, your employer’s desire to bring in and keep business, and the kind of service you want to give.
Reason #1: Professional Development
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you looking for professional contacts?
- Do you need a mentor?
- Are you looking for educational opportunities, certifications and seminars that will further your industry knowledge?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to join and get involved in a professional organization. Professional and trade organizations offer development and connections with others in your field and enhance your business profile. Having an industry association on your resume says you are very committed to your profession and actively participating in its advancement. Clients, customers, and employers like that.
Here’s a tip that you can use all your life: Don’t just show up; volunteer! Attending a monthly meeting is great for face time, but it may also mean that you’ll get a reputation as an observer instead of a participant. If you really want to get to know people and showcase your own abilities, get involved. Serve on a committee, volunteer for an event, and/or become a board member. These volunteer activities build long-lasting relationships and potential business opportunities.
Reason #2: Look for New Acquisitions
Who doesn’t want to help grow their firm, acquire new customers, and even find great staff for their company? While it’s great to be involved in an organization, if it is not meeting your objectives, you may need to broaden your perspective. To do this, you need to know who you want to acquire; in most cases, that’s a new client or customer.
Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. If they are involved in the local chamber of commerce, then that’s where you’ll want to be. Are they involved in their own industry group, such as manufacturing or technology? If so, find one that is targeted to their industry. Leverage your knowledge of that industry and ask your current clients where they are involved. Perhaps go with them to a meeting.
Keep in mind that “intent” is important. You can’t just show up at a meeting with the self-serving aim of getting clients. Go as a resourcewith the motive to learn the issues; after all, your goal is to help prospects find solutions. It is not about you; it is about them. And again, really commit to getting involved. Just showing up is never enough.
You may also choose to get involved with other professionals who serve your target audience, such as lawyers, financial advisors, bankers, and others. While they may not hire you themselves, they might refer you.
Reason #3: Find Your Passion
There is no quicker pick-me-up than becoming involved with something you feel passionate about, whether it is rescuing animals, helping sick children, or protecting the environment. For example, service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis or Lions Club meet weekly and raise money for a specific cause. These meetings also give you access to like-minded business people and allow you to serve the community.
Other organizations, such as environmental groups, homeless shelters, and hospitals need volunteers for all kinds of activities. These groups generally require volunteering after work or on the weekends, and time commitments vary. Becoming involved introduces you to people from all walks of life—and those people know other people, so developing relationships with them could lead to business and referrals. It also looks great on a resume or bio, but again, if the cause is something close to your heart, then you’ll be that much more enthused about serving. Don’t do it just because you are looking for a referral or a line-item on your resume.
Last Word: Take the Time
Regardless of your objective, becoming involved in any organization is about developing meaningful relationships from which you will learn and hopefully grow your firm or business. This means a commitment of personal time and, oftentimes, resources in terms of membership fees or fundraising. The bottom line is that consistent and active involvement is the key to successfully developing relationships and business opportunities.
Interested in AICPA volunteer activities? Visit Volunteer Central for more information.