Among his many titles and talents, my father is a licensed auctioneer. For more than fifty years, my family has done hundreds of auctions annually, many of those for charitable causes. Through their auction business, my parents have appraised and sold just about anything you can imagine. At any given auction, everything from a one of kind piece of art, to a tractor, from a full set of fine china, or commercial appliances to unique and highly collectible antiques, automobiles—even an old farmhouse including the kitchen sink—can be purchased. Over the years, the auctions they have done to raise money for non-profit organizations have been the ones that have made me most proud. If you have never attended an auction, imagine the moments you have been involved in something more important than any one individual, something that has been done to serve the greater good. There is an intense energy that builds when people come together in support of a cause and the excitement for giving at a benefit auction is palpable.
My personal experience of being part of an auction family calls to mind the ways we can serve others, and the gifts we receive in return. Reminiscing on years of my personal involvement in charitable and volunteer work, it is clear to me how instrumental those experiences have been in shaping the kind of employee and organizational leader I have become. Offering my time and expertise in support of a greater cause is always my intention in serving the community organizations I hold dear. Without question, working alongside so many others with a shared vision and purpose has given me unexpected fulfillment and I have often benefitted more than I have benefitted others through my service work.
As your next milestone approaches, perhaps it is taking more advanced courses, completing an internship, starting, or changing your career, consider how serving others will serve you well. From my experience serving others creates an opportunity to:
Refine your teamwork skills
When you step forward to serve others, especially through volunteerism, you quickly put yourself in a situation that will have you working as part of a team. To make a project a success, to reach a shared goal, you must work in partnership with others. Learning to break down barriers and finding solutions to complex problems are skills that will be tested routinely when working in a team environment. Well-honed communication and collaboration skills are cornerstones of being a valued member of any team.
Build your network
One of the many benefits of volunteering is that it gives us the opportunity to network. When you work for a cause you meet people from different walks of life. Different education levels, different socio-economic status, different ethnicities, different perspectives and more. Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds in support of a greater purpose enables you to grow as you get to learn different ways of getting along with people who are not the same as you. This is what leaders do consistently. Your network and your leadership skills will expand through collaborating with others and creating meaningful partnerships.
Spark your passion
Simply stated, serving others is energizing. When your efforts are devoted to a cause that is deeply meaningful to you, even the projects that might turn out to be more demanding than expected become less burdensome. Working with purpose brings joy and sparks your passion—and this seldom seems like work at all.
Be mentored, mentor others
Working as part of a team in service to others creates an environment to be mentored and to mentor others. Depending on the situation, project, or problem to be solved, every member of a team can offer their knowledge and expertise to benefit the team. By consistently showing up, and stepping up whenever the need arises, you can share your experience, provide guidance, and offer leadership to others.
Laurie Sheridan Lach is an outgoing member of the COMS Alumni Advisory Council and director of regional campus development and alumni engagement at Ohio University.