I’ve been a university volunteer for a decade or more. Initially it was board level involvement (read that as bored level) and then more engagement through speaking gigs to students, judging competitions and finally as the resident entrepreneur offering advice to the curious and committed.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been volunteering at a larger university. I’ve ended up doing things that I would have never thought of. It’s only when you get deeply involved in an organization and you spend enough time to show folks that you are committed, that the combination of timing and creative thinking results in interesting opportunities.
Sure I’ve helped students – lots of them – domestic students, international students and visiting candidates. Mentoring, connecting them with opportunities and providing a venue for them to meet fellow students and grads allowing experiences to be shared.
I’ve helped more graduates than I thought I would. Helping them make the transition to the workforce or more likely helping them make a more informed choice for their next job or even a career switch.
Unbelievably I’ve helped professors and not by adding some real life to their class material but in helping them with their research, connecting them with industry contacts.
My recent trip to India was a catalyst to connect local alumni with each other and back to the university. Once home, I was asked and able to reconnect one of the alumni to his classmates from the 60’s. I can hear the global chatter of men reliving their younger years. An impressive bunch they were – many retired professors and a couple of famous authors.
And I’ve helped management and staff operationally whether that’s at a strategic level, with team structure and roles, hiring or process improvement. All this borrowing from my operational experience.
But based on feedback, the most important value-add has been motivational. My “of course you can” attitude and creative approach to problem solving combined to lift spirits and reignite passions.
Whether it’s a local school or your alma mater, consider sharing your time and skills to an educational institution and see where it can take you.