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The Power of Volunteerism

by Jim Penrod, CAE, KCSAE President

I moved to Kansas City in August of 2015 to take a new position as the Executive Director of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.  This was a position I had been striving for over several years.  In order to make this leap, I got some good advice from an executive coach to try and build up my association network so I had contacts that I could rely upon not only to get to this position, but to have as a resource once I got there.

The first official random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization showed introverts made up 50.7% and extroverts 49.3% of the United States general population.  I just happen to be in the majority as an introvert.  Try telling an introvert that you had to go to all the ASAE meetings and actually talk to new people during the breaks.  That’s exactly what my executive coach told me.  Not only did I find it difficult to come up with the banter for those conversations, but have you ever attended an ASAE meeting?  Everyone knows everyone else there!  Now I had to butt in on conversations between people that already had established their network.  I was surprised that all of the individuals I approached, well maybe most, were very accommodating and struck up a conversation with me.  Not only did I make new friends and add to my network, but I actually learned a lot of things that helped me on my journey.

As I returned to the ASAE Annual Meeting, I began to see these individuals again.  One happened to be the chair of the CAE Commission.  He told me that I should volunteer for the CAE program and threw my name in the hat for that opportunity.  I was selected to start on the CAE Exam Committee and actually worked my way over nine years to be the chair myself of the CAE Commission.

What did I learn along the way?  The people I served with in these volunteer roles became my network.  They were resources for me to turn to in finding my current position.  When I mentioned that I was applying for a veterinary position, several of my volunteer peers gave me contacts to learn more about the veterinary profession and the position.  When I started in my new role in 2015, I talked to many of my volunteer peers to understand what they learned in a similar role and to be able to run ideas past them to get input.  I owe a lot of my success to those individuals that helped me find my way.

Now that I am President of KCSAE, I look at all of the friends I have made in the KCSAE community.  I probably would not have met them if I had not volunteered to be on the KCSAE Board.  I know I definitely would not have had the opportunity to build the type of relationships that one can only get by working side by side on an important project that builds our profession.

I encourage all of you in the KCSAE community to volunteer for a role with us.  If you are new to association management or just don’t know where to start, say hi to me at a KCSAE meeting.  I’ll be sure to become a new part of your association network that you can rely upon in the future.  See you at the next KCSAE event!

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