Aug 9

Board service: Both a great opportunity and great responsibility

Six people put their hands together over a table with papers and a laptop to show team workYou should look into joining a board.

It was a suggestion a colleague offered over coffee as I was getting ready to start a new job. Being a young professional, I hadn’t thought about that and found the idea intriguing. I held the perception boards are something you do later in your career. I made a mental note of it and moved on.

A few weeks later, I met with another professional to network. When she asked me about my career goals, I struggled to articulate them. I was taking it day-by-day at the time, trying to acclimate to my new job. You could say my thoughts on long-term goals were a bit foggy.

But in the recesses of my mind, I recalled the board suggestion and blurted out that I was considering it. She bluntly asked me why. And again, I was caught off guard. Serving on a board just because it seems like a professional and good thing to do is clearly not good enough reason. So, I let the notion fall off my radar.

I did, however, become an official member of the West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations of America, also known as WMPRSA, and joined a couple of the committees. It rekindled my love for volunteer work and brought back memories of working with different student organizations back in college.

It also gave me the opportunity to get to know and work with a lot of wonderful PR professionals in the area. And it eventually led to an invitation to put my name in the ring to serve on the board. I was elected to serve a three-year term beginning January 2021, and so far, it’s been an enriching and exciting experience.

Without a doubt, serving on a board does require a considerable investment of time and effort, but the benefits that come from it are worth it. Whether or not you’ve ever considered board service a part of your career goals, here are some reasons to pursue it.

Help shape and grow an organization

Cue the Peter Parker principle, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

In a board position, you have the honor and privilege of making decisions that have a true impact on the organization. For WMPRSA, we’re influencing the future of the public relations field in our region. We’re promoting best practices for the field, helping professionals stay on top of trends and issues, providing opportunities for mentoring, networking and professional development and more. It’s quite the responsibility.

If there’s a cause you’re passionate about, serving on a board may be one of the best opportunities to have your voice heard and effect change at the highest levels of an organization.

Meaningful networking

I’d like to think most people who are serving on boards enjoy networking and have a strong professional circle or go-getter attitude that afforded them the opportunity. Serving on a board puts you in direct contact with thought leaders who are passionate about the same things you are. Getting to know them naturally opens the door to further expand your connections with others in their network.

Beyond the opportunity to add influential people to your proverbial rolodex, you’re likely to have thoughtful conversations with them because of the different backgrounds and insights they bring to the table. We can always benefit from hearing others’ unique perspectives.

Personal fulfillment 

Serving on a board — or committee or any volunteer role for that matter — is one way you can personally support initiatives that resonate with you. It’s an opportunity to give back while also being a leader in the industry. And I do think you get what you give. Being an active contributor and making a difference can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. The more invested you are in the process, the more exciting the outcomes can be.

Professional fulfillment 

Serving on a board certainly has professional benefits, too, as an impressive addition to your resume and LinkedIn profile. It can go a long way for giving your professional reputation and credibility a boost. You’re aligning yourself as a leader with an organization and/or in your field. You wouldn’t be on the board if you weren’t well-equipped to help shape the future of an organization with your unique experience, knowledge and connections.

Grow or build new skills

I think particularly for young professionals like myself, board service gives us a front-row seat to what it takes to run a successful organization that we wouldn’t otherwise gain at this stage in our careers. I’m getting exposure to and gaining a deeper understanding of the strategic planning, governance, financials and overall operations of an organization.

It’s helping me develop knowledge and skills that I don’t typically have in my day-to-day work. In general, regularly collaborating with people from different industries and levels of experience gets me outside my bubble. It exposes me to new ideas and tools.

I can now confidently answer the question why when it comes to board service. And I hope I’ve convinced you to consider board service as part of your future, too. It is a wonderful way to support a cause you care about while supporting your own career advancement. It can help you grow as a leader, gain new skills and expand your network. A board position is also a role that should be taken seriously and with enthusiasm in order to reap all the benefits and make a positive impact on the organization.

From your friendly neighborhood PR professional,

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