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Monday, November 13, 2006

Volunteer like a pro

"Volunteer like a man." That's what Going Back to Work author Mary Quigley said in an interview on CNN's In The Money back in 2004. Offering advice to on-ramp moms she continued, "A man doesn't run a cookie sale. He runs the fund-raising drive to raise $10,000 for a new playground. "

Volunteer like a man. Career columnists, job coaches and other back-to-work advisors have since echoed her words. Ugh.

Do they also suggest doing manly things like stopping to scratch your crotch as you unload heavy boxes of frozen Market Day foods? Or leaving a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the PTA office?

No, what Quigley meant and later said was, "Volunteer in areas where there are measurable results." So let's change that to Volunteer Like A Professional. For example, if you're a writer, or an aspiring writer, volunteer to craft press releases, write grants or help with the school paper. Take on meaty tasks that build up, and on, your professional experiences. Use your volunteer time to make contacts, develop skills, and work on projects that make an impact.

Good enough advice, but let's get real. Does heading up a $10,000 volunteer fundraising effort stand out on a resume? And if it does get noticed, will it lead an on-ramp mom to a job offer or even an interview given the bias against hiring moms?

The fact is that schools need volunteers for the "gruntwork." Usually there is much more work to do than there are volunteers to do it. Sometimes the work can be done from home, some can be done at night or on weekends, so it' may be working-parent friendly, but it's not all high-profile, fun, growth-oriented, or interesting. In fact, most of it isn't.

Professional backgrounds or aspirations shouldn't serve as an excuse to avoid lunchroom duty or cleaning up after Bingo Night. Despite Quigley's take on this type of "women's work," I've expanded my network by rubbing elbows with other moms and dads doing these things. But instead of counting them among my "contacts," I tend to call them friends. You can really get to know a person in the time it takes to mix up 60 gallons of lemonade.

Lest I sound too self-righteous, though, I must admit that for me, the volunteer line is drawn at counting up the Campbell's Soup labels. Even contemplating serving as the label program coordinator makes me anxious and depressed. Damn it, Campbell's, I will not be your whore!

I started thinking about the concept of volunteering like a pro because I'm currently helping with our school's largest fundraiser- a silent auction. When the chairperson told me that I was an account manager for a select group of prospects, I suddenly felt so important. I no longer saw myself as an underachieving mom begging for donations. Now, I'm a hotshot account manager, cultivating relationships with qualified donors in order to increase revenues by 50%. How great will that look on my resume?

I don't care if you volunteer like a man, a 50s housewife or a chimpanzee. But please, please get involved in your child's school even if it doesn't add umph to your resume. And if your volunteer experience helped you land a job, email me at mom@moldofsky.com so I can share your story with others.

posted by Kim Moldofsky @ 7:57 PM

1 Comments:

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Amy said...

I used to think volunteering at church was just that, volunteering. I felt it wasn't as important as getting paid for something. I have recently realized that teaching young children principles of the gospel IS one of the most important things I could be doing with my time. I now look at volunteering in a different light. Instead of asking, "What can I get out of this?" I ask, "What can I give and how will it help others." Which in turn will help me grow into the person I want to be.

I enjoy your posts at momformation. I would be so honored if you took a glance at my blog www.ConfessionsOfaStay-at-home-mom.blogspot.com
Thanks!

 

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