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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Volunteer Manager’s Mission - seek out strange new worlds

I attended a seminar at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) in Brisbane, recently.  I will be honest, I was a little apprehensive.  For whatever reason, I thought that I wouldn’t fit in.  Usually when I am talking to people and the topic of conversation turns to what work do you do, I say “I’m a Volunteer Coordinator” and then hold my breath and wait for the reply of “how nice” followed by an awkward silence or a quick change of subject, because people are generally unfamiliar with the role and feel uncomfortable because they don’t know what to say next. 

So it was with some trepidation I entered the AIM building.  I was greeted in a friendly, yet professional manner and shown where I could either sit and wait or browse through the library and bookshop while I waited to be taken to the seminar room.   The event coordinator, Simone, noticing I was by myself and perhaps a little nervous, made me feel a bit more at ease with a polite conversation and you guessed it, asked the dreaded question, what do you do?   Imagine my surprise then, when after giving my usual reply, Simone responded with “that must be challenging”, finally, someone who understood my role.  Yes being a volunteer coordinator can be challenging.  A person who coordinates events would know this.  The role of coordinating or managing volunteers is challenging, because to do it well requires matching the skills, abilities, talents and needs of people to tasks, ensuring also that tasks are appropriate and meaningful.  To get the balance right requires flexibility, understanding, empathy, multitasking, organisation and time management skills to name just a few. 


My role is about managing people just as managers and coordinators in other industries manage people. Why then did I feel so ill at ease by the thought of attending a seminar with managers from other industries?  Interestingly enough when speaking to other attendees and engaging in conversation there was a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s professions and an interest in learning more about people’s aspirations for growth of their business and themselves.

I felt accepted and very much a part of this group of professional people with opportunities to network with people from other industries all sharing a passion for what they do and a  willingness to learn new things, to exchange ideas, to improve, network and evolve.  I would encourage anyone wanting to network, learn new skills and evolve to seek out opportunities to attend seminars and talk to people in other industries.  Leadership and management are not limited to the volunteer management sector alone they transcend the boundaries to many other industries.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

If you have a networking or learning experience you’d like to share please feel free to write a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Australian Institute of Management (AIM)

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