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Archive for the ‘Volunteerism’ Category

Totem PoleDid you arrive at your previous leadership position the first day, or even the first year, on the job? Volunteering should not be just about bolstering an ego that might be taking a hit when people are no longer treating you like the boss or you need to fill empty hours; it should also have an element of generosity and that might mean starting at the bottom of a new totem pole. If you are volunteering in an area where you have valuable expertise it will be discovered eventually.

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Philadelphia MuralAfter volunteering all my life, when I faced retirement, i was determined to volunteer for things interesting to me.

Interested in architecture, I volunteered as a tour guide. First I attended architectural sessions to learn about the various styles and periods. Then I even found a part time job at an architectural firm.

Since I no longer cooked for my family on a daily basis, I decided to cook for 60 homeless men, but only once a month. There I received more than I gave, acknowledging their hope and sense of fun.

And then having seen first hand how a juveniles first offense in the criminal justice system could ruin his life, I volunteered for the youth aid panel of Philadelphia. There juveniles are monitored while they perform community service and other obligations during a three-month period. If they fulfill all of their obligations and stay out of trouble, their record is wiped clean.

All of these pursuits have stimulated my mind and enabled me to continue to learn and grow. I think we never retire from that.

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ResumeRegarding leadership in volunteer positions, I’ve learned that when you begin as a new volunteer, you must earn your authority. I retired from a management position where I was accustomed to my opinions being taken seriously, my jokes being laughed at, my instructions and suggestions being followed…but when I volunteered, my resume carried no weight. I was just the neewbie in the room. Those who had longer, deeper experience as volunteers were given deference, no matter what their prior work experience may have been. It took some time for my ego to adjust, but it did…and over time I’ve learned some new skills in how to bring what I know about management to the volunteer world without seeming presumptuous or overbearing…which is a trap those of us used to being “in charge” can easily fall into.

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FairchildVolunteer where you enjoy doing it. Otherwise, don’t volunteer. One of the pleasures of not getting paid for your efforts is the ability to pick and choose. I owned and ran a successful public relations company for many years and didn’t “love” all my clients, but did love the retainer fees they paid me. In business you learn to put up with a lot of stuff. Now retired, I truly do love my volunteer work that ranges from serving as a docent at the wonderful Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to working with blind children at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. If you feel your leadership skills are going to waste, volunteer somewhere else. There are endless organizations that will appreciate your services.

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