The benefits of getting involved with or serving on the board of a professional or community organization are well known. You can expand your network, gain experience, improve professional skills and provide service to others. Check out Laure Cohen’s post on Brazen Careeristabout the career benefits associated with professional involvement and tips on how to land a seat on a board.
While the benefits of board service are many, make sure you actually have the time to commit, especially if you have a demanding job and/or a busy home life.
I recently joined the College of Arts Science and Letters Alumni Affiliate Board for my alma mater, the University of Michigan-Dearborn. However, prior to making the commitment I reviewed the board requirements. I asked about the frequency of meetings and events. Were there other expectations, such as serving on committees or attending events? I then looked at my lifestyle. My wife and I were expecting our first child so I knew my home life would be changing, and my job often kept me at the office after 5 pm. After carefully considering all my responsibilities, I decided that I had the time to commit to the board. It was the right decision for me.
It is essential that you understand the time commitment. The danger of over committing is that you run late for meetings and events or miss them altogether. Instead of heightening your reputation by serving on a board you damage it. Regardless of how good your work ethic is on the job or at home, your fellow board members only know what they see. If you are overextended, the very net
work and relationships you are trying to develop may hurt your reputation. And social media can spread the word quickly.
We are more connected now than any other time in history, and it’s extremely easy to reach out to others for references through social media sites, namelyLinkedIn. If you are up for a promotion or trying to land your dream job, you definitely don’t want to be the topic of conversation by board members about how you are not meeting the requirements of your board appointment. This is also true if you work in a service industry and are seeking new clients. You may not be considered if one of your fellow board members works for or knows people in that company.
Of course, there are times where circumstances do temporarily impact your time and create challenges meeting commitments. Speaking as a new parent, I can certainly relate to having a ton of new responsibilities at home. If you ever find yourself in the position where you are overcommitted, don’t be too proud to inform your board. Open communication will allow the board to make the appropriate changes, and they will respect your honesty.
Remember, one of the benefits of getting involved is building relationships with key individuals, and as my colleagueSara Bloombergpointed out in her recent blog post about developing relationships, positive relationships are built on trust.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you may have over committed? How did you handle it?