Welcome to the inaugural issue of Jhemon's Lee's column at AsianConnections.com! In this column, we'll talk career development.
Hello! My name is Jhemon Lee, and welcome to my column here at AsianConnections.com! The topics I chat about will undoubtedly meander as time goes on, but at least early on, AsianConnections has asked that I talk about career development.
You certainly don't need me to tell you about one minute management secrets, or who moved your cheese, or other pithy metaphors that translate into New York Times bestsellers. There's a lot that you can learn from reading books, from conferences and courses and from mentors. But in the end, the best way to learn is by doing. Nothing beats hands-on experience.
And here's a secret for you-the best place to get hands-on practical experience are volunteer organizations-be they community service groups, professional associations, sports teams or arts and culture endeavors. They all need your help, and they all make the neighborhood a nicer, more interesting place. But from a purely selfish standpoint, you'll also be helping yourself.
Most people only look at volunteer groups as "give" or "take"-either you're "giving" (volunteering at a soup kitchen) or you're "taking" (going to a gala event that you enjoy. What's overlooked is the process, the "doing." And it's "doing" that may be the most important aspect.
Want to learn more about finance? Become your local chapter's treasurer. Want to know more about the web? Work on your group's website. Want to become an upper level manager someday? Shoot for leadership positions. You'd be surprised how quickly you can move up the ranks if you set your mind to it. In a lot of organizations, they're practically begging for people to take officer positions, since everyone else is busy with their real day jobs.
Put it this way: in a worst case scenario, let's say that you're a horrible manager. If you find this out while working on a project at work, you get fired. If you discover this while working on a project in your local community association, the worst that can happen is that you let some colleagues down, but your career and your paycheck are intact. And in a better case scenario, you'll learn and discover talents that you never thought you had.
Paradoxically, by giving-your time, your energies, you end up getting-real life management and work skills.
I've done most of my volunteering and community involvement through Asian Pacific American non-profits like the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP: www.naaap.org) and its chapters, but from a career development standpoint, it really doesn't matter what cause you get involved in. Pick an organization whose mission and goals you care about. Larger associations provide more structure and more potential networking, but smaller groups offer more opportunities for true leadership and leaving your personal stamp on the organization.
Think of your local volunteer organization as a place to practice your skills before you use them "for real" in the workplace. It's free. It's fun. And best of all, you're making the world a better place for yourself and the rest of us.