You’ve landed your dream job. You volunteer for assignments, sign up for committees, join colleagues for happy hour. You’ve got that networking thing nailed. Right?
Yes, it’s important to build a network within your organization, getting to know – and be known by – people across departments, disciplines, levels. But it’s just as important to get involved outside your organization.
You might question if you have time for more, but to me, it’s a no-brainer. In my experience, getting involved in the community is an investment in you that will pay long-term dividends.
Here’s why giving back to the community has also been great for my career:
1. You’ll find unique networking opportunities.
Look for opportunities to make an impact on the community in ways that not only match your passions, but also offer diverse exposure. Do you love the arts like I do? Then volunteer for an arts organization. I got involved with the Andy Warhol Museum and the Pittsburgh Opera years ago—and today I chair both boards.
I’m also passionate about my city, so I’m actively involved in the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, our local economic development engine.
I’ve met wonderful people from the community and around the world – a network of friends, mentors and advisers I can turn to in any situation. Through the Allegheny Conference board, I’ve met many other CEOs, including the head of a large energy company. When I was leading the campaign to create a new home for the Pittsburgh Opera in a renovated historic building, we faced the prohibitively expensive hauling away of a very old, mammoth boiler and installation of a new furnace. The energy company CEO came to the rescue by donating all the labor so we could complete the project.
2. Your work will open new doors.
Like you do at work, say “yes” to new opportunities. With time, you may get asked to be on a committee or a board in your chosen organization. For me, it was being the first woman to chair the United Way campaign in my community.
After the Allegheny Conference Board, the United Way Board is the biggest collection of leaders of Fortune 500 companies in my city – and probably most cities. Working with and getting to know these mostly male leaders has opened the door to speaking engagements, community recognition and, perhaps most important, many new business connections for my company.
What’s more, after I broke the gender barrier in the United Way campaign, other women have been given this opportunity. In fact, this year’s co-chair is a woman. Similarly, I was the first woman to be the King of the Epilepsy Foundation Mardi Gras, a fundraiser held all over the country. Since, then other women have been “king” in Pittsburgh as well as in other chapters.
This kind of visibility is invaluable. You’ll meet corporate and community leaders who will become your personal and business friends – as well as customers and clients – as you continue to grow your network.
3. You have the opportunity to learn new skills outside your day-to-day world.
By working with new people on new problems outside your work role, you’ll gain perspectives and build skills that have valuable application on the job and in the broader world. It’s a powerful way to demonstrate that you’re ready for that stretch assignment… or maybe find a new passion or avenue to explore.
And besides helping to position you for quick advancement internally, it may one day help to position you for corporate board membership – which is just as valuable for established professionals as people early in their careers.
The most important skill I learned from my community work is fundraising. The essential lesson is that it’s really friend-raising. People give to people not causes—it’s all about building relationships. Not only is it incredibly helpful in all my board work; it has also helped me sell better in my business. At the same time, the strategy and creativity I must apply to selling in my business role has made me a better fundraiser for community organizations. It’s really a win-win.
4. 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.
I’ve never felt more energized than when heading the marketing efforts for Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary. We changed the world view from a smoky rust belt city to one of innovation and opportunity– where anyone can imagination the possibilities. The next year, the G20 summit came to Pittsburgh shining a global spotlight, and the recognition and excitement continue.
And I’ve never been more fulfilled than during Pittsburgh Opera capital campaign. In just a year, we completely paid for the building purchase and renovation – surpassing our goal and creating a solid financial footing and new revenue streams for the Opera for years to come. It’s why I continue to stay actively involved in the organizations that matter to me.
So remember, just as it’s critical to have younger and more diverse board members in the corporate world, the same is true in the non-profit world. Community organizations need young leaders. What are you waiting for?
Michele Fabrizi is the President & CEO of MARC USA.
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