Leading with Influence as a Volunteer Engagement Professional

As Volunteer Engagement Professionals we are used to wearing many hats and filling multiple roles, but what do we do when we decide to explore something new? When we lead with influence we allow for ourselves to develop new skills, showcase our strengths and develop into the professionals we want to be. 

So, what does leading with influence mean? Leading through influence means building up a network of strong relationships built on trust and respect, and understanding how to present your ideas and your research in the right way to the right person at the right time to lead them in the direction you believe that they should go. As a Volunteer Manager you are in a unique role that allows you to influence many situations, decisions and projects based on your position within the organization.

If you were able to join our session “Take Charge and Advocate for Your Future” at the Texas Volunteer Management Conference (TVMC) on May 13th, this is going to look very familiar. As I believe we can reflect back on our transferable skills to direct us in how we then lead.

To lead with influence and grow as a professional we want to focus on four things.

  1. Dispel the career myth that its one straight line. 
  2. Focus on transferable skills, not climbing a ladder.
  3. Create personal milestones. 
  4. Encourage small experiments. 

1. Dispel the career myth that its one straight line.

Consider the etymology of the word “career.” It comes from the 16th-century word for “road.” When we envision a career, we imagine a direct path with a final destination. This is an outdated idea that still haunts many people, especially those who are so focused on helping others. The truth is it is fine and even preferable not to have a concrete career path in mind. Being overly attached to a specific path can turn into a career trap — blinding us to nonlinear opportunities for growth.

2. Focus on transferable skills, not climbing a ladder.

The Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA) is an international organization dedicated to advancing the excellence and volunteer administration by delivering professional certification and advocating for ethical practice. In 2015, they released a competency framework that I believe holds the keys to how we go about speaking and sharing our skill sets to our colleagues and stakeholders.

Seven Competencies of Volunteer Administration
• Plan for Strategic Volunteer Engagement
• Advocate for Volunteer Involvement
• Attract and Onboard a Volunteer Workforce
• Prepare Volunteers for their Roles
• Document Volunteer Involvement
• Manage Volunteer Performance and Impact
• Acknowledge, Celebrate and Sustain Volunteer Involvement

Now those are some transferable skills!!

How would you rework them to present your ideas and to promote yourself at work? How can you use these as talking points with your manager or supervisor to align yourself to grow within the organization?

3. Create personal milestones.

Now that I have you thinking about the skills you have as a Volunteer Engagement Professional, I invite you to dream with me. Where do you see yourself in the future?

Pathways to consider:

  • Executive Director
  • Philanthropy/Fund Development
  • Community Relations 
  • Account Management
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Human Resources
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Project Management
  • Customer Liaison

Download a copy of our Career Planning Worksheet, specifically for Volunteer Engagement Professionals!

4. Encourage small experiments. 

The growing complexity and unpredictability of work means we need to run many small experiments to discover what suits us best. Its okay to try a new role or step up for a project to flex your skills or see if you enjoy the work. You never know until you try and employers are no longer looking for the perfect technical fit for a role but the person who can adapt, overcome and succeed in what they do.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Lewis Carroll

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