I got a lot out of my time at university and was lucky enough to land a great job straight away with Mars Incorporated, where I’m now a Strategic Capability Director. My journey from undergraduate to experienced business leader gave me a genuine sense of wanting to give something back.
I could have just written a check, but that wasn’t enough. So, I spent three years volunteering as a trustee board member with the Nottingham University Students’ Union, in the UK. It was a two-way process that stretched my thinking constantly. There were lots of challenges, difficult conversations and contentious topics, which tested and developed my ability to work under pressure.
Emotionally, this experience reinforced how important it is to be a non-judgmental listener and to respect the views of others. Also, I was reminded that hearing perspectives from industries and sectors outside my own is hugely enlightening.
In my last year, there were often major choices that I needed to make – helping the board navigate issues during this time definitely developed me as a leader. At times I found this tricky, but I’m glad I got to experience this high-pressure and need for urgency because it is these moments that shape you as a person and as a leader.
This experience has made me realize how important it is for me to work for an organization that shares my values. I experienced a particular volunteering awakening when I witnessed how this agile organization successfully negotiated a period of tremendous change. As a collective, we made improvements around mental health provisions, ethical investment policy and ultimately approved investment for new services in the university’s Portland Building. I didn’t directly make these changes myself, but enabling others to make a difference was fantastic.
Going forward, I’d highly recommend taking part in every volunteering opportunity available to you. Not only will these experiences help you to add skills to your CV, but giving back to the community gives you a feeling of satisfaction that’s hard to match. Expect to learn and stretch yourself while challenging and sharing your learning’s with your peers.