By Michele Fabrizi, President & CEO, MARC USA
Recently I was asked by the United Way to advise Millennials on the role volunteering and philanthropy play in building a career.
To me, it’s a no-brainer. Getting involved in the community is one of the best ways to not only build visibility, but also build new skills and, perhaps most important, build a diverse network of mentors.
So here are my four steps for maximizing personal and professional impact.
Expand your network.
Being involved in the community is a great way to expand your network – to meet, work with and build relationships with people you would not otherwise encounter.
But be strategic about what you get involved in.
Bill George, author of the leadership classic True North, believes that the most effective way for young leaders to gain self-awareness is to find a support team of mentors who will listen to them. While you might not have Steve Jobs as your mentor as Mark Zuckerberg did, your goal should be a mentor network of diverse thinkers and backgrounds.
Look for opportunities to make an impact on the community in ways that not only align with your personal passions, but also offer the most diverse exposure possible.
I love the arts. That’s why in addition to my work with United Way, I’ve been passionately involved with both the Andy Warhol Museum and the Pittsburgh Opera for many years.
I’ve met wonderful people from the community and literally from around the world by working with these organizations – a network of friends, mentors and advisors whom I can turn to today in any situation.
Ok, you’re off to a good start. You’re doing something you love and meeting great new people. That alone is a strong benefit of community involvement. But there’s much more… which leads to the next step.
Expand your visibility beyond your own organization.
Be present and get involved in the organizations you choose to support. Be there with ideas and with enthusiasm. Go to meetings. Volunteer. Be accountable.
Soon you’ll be asked to serve on or even chair a committee. It’s an opportunity to put together a plan, build a strategy, run meetings with smart agendas, make things happen.
It’s a great way to demonstrate leadership and build your reputation. Before you know it, you may be asked to join the board and, perhaps, one day chair the board.
And, remember, the true mark of a leader is not waiting until you’re sure you are ready to do something. Be as fearless in your community involvement as I hope you are in your work. Ask questions that haven’t been asked before and propose bold solutions.
Say “yes” when new opportunities come along. For me, it was agreeing to be the first woman to chair the annual United Way campaign in my community. It opened the door to tremendous visibility for me. And I’m glad to say it also opened the door for other women to do the same down the road.
I can tell you this visibility is invaluable. You’ll meet other corporate and community leaders who will become your personal and business friends as you continue to grow your network.
And I’ve had amazing experiences that never would have been possible otherwise… which leads to the third step in maximizing your impact and another benefit of community involvement.
Learn new skills outside your day-to-day world
By working with new people on new problems outside your work role, you’ll gain new perspectives and build new skills that have valuable application on the job and in the broader world.
It’s a great way to demonstrate that you’re ready for that next stretch assignment… or maybe even find a new passion or avenue to explore. And, it’s just as valuable for established professionals as people early in their careers.
Recently I’ve led a program that brings together startup entrepreneurs with seasoned marketing leaders in intensive marketing hacks. Many of the senior marketers come back multiple times because it’s so energizing to stretch their mental muscles on new problems.
It’s also a great way for them to give back to the community as they help young entrepreneurs zero in on value propositions and key targets and develop actionable marketing strategies.
And that leads me to the fourth step…
Personal fulfillment and satisfaction are rewards in themselves – but they’re also the fuel that drives you to even greater success.
Nothing feels better than making a difference in the lives of individuals or in your community. There’s nothing more energizing or more empowering than seeing the impact of your efforts. It’s why I continue to stay actively involved in the organizations that matter to me.
How do you begin? It’s easy. Your community and non-profit organizations need young leaders to be actively involved. What are you waiting for?