How do you balance leadership, professional development, networking, and volunteerism as a young professional?
If I was to answer the question, “How do I balance leadership, professional development, networking, and volunteerism as a young professional,” my short answer would be: I don’t.
Instead I’ll give you this: I aspire to live my life in seasons (see: The Four Burners Theory). When you can’t do it all, sometimes you just have to worry about doing things one at a time. That said, I try to balance building an active network, volunteering, mentoring, and my personal/professional development by rotating between these different areas of my life in stages.
During certain parts of the year, I might be focusing on making new connections, maintaining the ones I already have, or focusing on my own development. Regardless, I hold myself accountable. Whether it’s making the effort to attend regular YPC networking and professional development events, or plan a catch-up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, I try to fit these activities into times of the year (or month) that make sense.
For me, my work schedule tends to get more demanding at the end of the month and around select times of the year. When I go through my calendar and am ready to make plans, I try my best to lock down someone for the first week of the month or push things back in slower times of the year. It feels amazing when you don’t have to cancel on someone because you took the time to take control of your agenda. That’s not to say the unexpected doesn’t happen, but by being aware of my schedule, I can make the most of my time.
On the other hand, when it comes to volunteering/being a leader, I combine opportunities. I look for chances to share my passions with friends, family, and colleagues. When I think about my volunteer experience, almost every single opportunity has involved me attending with at least one other person.
Again, this helps keep me accountable, but more importantly, I get to share the joy of giving back to those in need. And who doesn’t love that? Volunteer, mentorship, or development opportunities can also be a great chance to get to know coworkers outside of the office. I’m always making sure to invite my colleagues to my extracurricular activities.
Here’s a challenge: If your team does not already employ a community service effort, pick a random Saturday, sign up for hours at your favorite local nonprofit, and invite your coworkers to do the same. You’d be surprised at how much good you’ll accomplish and how much team-building can happen in just a few hours.
In essence, I try to find ways to get the most out of my activities. But when I can’t, I set up systems to automate my life.
- Worried about not keeping up with friends and colleagues? Set a weekly reminder to send a text or call.
- Don’t feel like you’re doing your part to help the community? I set a recurring amount of money aside to donate.
- Don’t think you’re making an impact in your organization? Take a couple minutes to show someone on your team how much you appreciate them.
- Feel like you’re not developing fast enough? I set aside an hour per week to go through an online course.
The bottom line is that while there are so many ways to get involved as a young professional, focus on the opportunities that allow you to get the most back for what you put in. For me, it’s clearly been YPC, an organization that I joined three years ago and that has given me so much in return.
One final challenge: I encourage you to nominate someone (it can be yourself) for the 2nd Annual YPC Spotlight Awards! Nominations are due January 27, but make sure to get them in early.
Basil Jackson was recognized as one of our 2019 Young Professionals of the Year at the inaugural YPC Spotlight Awards.