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Episode 220: Volunteering for Project Managers as a Networking Technique for Professional Success (Free)

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Episode 220: Volunteering for Project Managers as a Networking Technique for Professional Success (Free)I have always said that one of the most beneficial actions that I took to further my career and success as a project manager was to become involved with PMI. I started out as an event volunteer and worked my way all the way up to becoming the president of my local PMI Chapter. This volunteering not only helped me to find a job, it also introduced me to colleagues in my field put me on the path of becoming PMP® certified and it was the starting point of this here, The Project Management Podcast where I’ve expanded my volunteering efforts out towards a world audience of project managers.

The good news is that I’m not the only one who has seen such great results from volunteering. Kevin Reilly, PMP has seen very similar results. Every since he started volunteering a little over a year ago doors have opened up for him and an incredible number of opportunities have opened up for him.

Kevin has now gone ahead and he has taken his approach and turned it into a process for you. A step by step process that you can follow towards your professional success as a project manager:

  • Understand the benefits
  • Analyze your skills
  • Determine your goals
  • Select an organization
  • Leverage your time
  • Market your skills

We first review these 6 steps in detail and then Kevin tells his personal story of volunteering and networking to illustrate how powerful a driver this approach was in his career and will help you do the same.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Kevin Reilly, PMP, Senior Project Management Training Consultant for KRPM Training Solutions.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Kevin and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™!

Kevin Reilly: Hi, Cornelius! How are you today?

Cornelius Fichtner: I am very well today. Thank you very much. Well before we begin the interview in the spirit of full disclosure, we have to say this is not the first time that you and I are speaking today. In fact, you and I had a daily scrum earlier today because you work for our company as a part-time consultant right?

Kevin Reilly: Yes I do and I always appreciate the opportunity, Cornelius.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right! We just want to get this out of the way so that everybody is aware of our relationship here. We want to talk, however, not about your work for our company today. We want to discuss something that is completely unrelated with what you do for us. It is all about volunteering for project managers as a networking technique and professional success. But the first question I have to ask you here: Why, why on earth should the people listening, our listeners here, be interested in this because you know they are all project managers like you and I and they have daily issues like they need to meet the budget and the schedule and that’s what’s important for them? So what’s in it for them in the coming interview?

Kevin Reilly: It’s a great question, Cornelius. And really when we think about networking, most of the time we’re thinking about when we’re in transition between jobs or looking for a new career or some new opportunities. But we’re volunteering comes in when you couple it with networking. You are able to expand your base in a specific industry or area that you have expertise in and want to increase it or areas that you want to increase that you have expertise in. So they really do go hand and hand volunteering and networking. And not only when you’re in transition but throughout your professional career to guarantee your professional success.

Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent! Now what you have done is you have taken your experience and you have put this together sort of in a six-step, shall we call it, process that you have created?

Kevin Reilly: Yes!

Cornelius Fichtner: And on a high level, they are Understand benefits, Analyze skills, Determine goals, Select organization, Leverage your time, and Market your skills. We’re going to go through all of these six steps right now.

So let’s begin at the very beginning. So please help us understand the benefits of volunteering and the benefits of networking.

Kevin Reilly: Well, it’s funny because when I started thinking about this in trying to pay it forward to other people from the experience that I had, I thought about the reasons why first of all I volunteer. And I came up with about 20 of them. But I what I wanted to do is track down the top 3 for me. So I’m going to review those and might throw in a couple that I’ve gotten from other people also.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay!

Kevin Reilly: The first one for me is really to make a positive difference. So the old adage is that one person cannot change the world. I don’t ascribe to that. I think that if you volunteer your time in something that you’re passionate about and that you feel like paying forward to people, you can really make a positive difference in other people’s personal and professional lives. I really think that’s important.

The second one for me is helping others makes you feel good about yourself. So really when you give, when you help somebody out, it really increases your self‑esteem and your feeling of self-worth. It makes you feel a lot better about the things that you’re doing by helping other people and that’s just human nature, It just helps us to validate that.

And then paying it forward. That’s the term that I use quite often. I have had a lot of people in my professional career and personal life who have helped me so I feel not obligated but I want to pay it forward so that anyway that I can help people become better at what they are good at or to learn something new, that’s what I like to do. So those are kind of the top three reasons.

But another reason is that it’s fun. When you volunteer, you get to meet other people. You get to do fun things. You get to go to great events. So really fun is the top one that I have to add and could be at the top really.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Yeah and I could wholeheartedly agree with everything that you have said here. I’ve been volunteering and networking ever since about 2003 and 2004 when I came to the United States. It really got me to where I am today. I made a positive difference first in my local PMI chapter helping other project managers. Then I took it outside. I now have a Project Management Podcast around the world. To me, this is volunteering. I’m paying it forward. I’m helping others. It’s sharpening my skills. But I have to tell you though, it’s not just keeping me productive during my downtimes, it’s keeping me overworked most of the time.

Kevin Reilly: And we’ll get in to that a little bit about one of the steps is limiting the time while having that but that’s a good, very good point.

Cornelius Fichtner: So that was step one: Understand the benefits, know why you are volunteering, why you are networking for you personally right? The end goal of course being your career, improving your career, right?

Kevin Reilly: Right! And also those we discussed kind of a high-level, the benefits of volunteering, but also on networking, the benefits of networking. So you mentioned one of those which is sharpen your skills. So if you have specific skills that you want to get better at for a promotion or moving in to another industry, you can go ahead and do that by volunteering for a specific task and activities in organizations where you can sharpen them.

And the important thing to remember about networking again is it keeps you productive during downtimes. So what I’m talking about here is specifically when you’re in transition. You know that employers hate to see gaps in your employment history. Well if you volunteer, you can put that on your resume. It is valid experience that you can put and employers really appreciate that you’re doing that.

And also it allows you to effectively market yourself when in networking, finding out where your strengths are, telling people how you can help them really helps you to effectively market them. So those are some specific networking benefits. At least my top three in that regard.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Step two: Analyze the skills that you have. What do you mean by that?

Kevin Reilly: Well, you want to kind of take an inventory of everything you’ve done at a high level in your life to see what skills you have to be able to employ those both with volunteering and with networking.

So the first one is your education. Look at the education that you have the specific degrees you have, certifications that you have, anything that you have done in the past in terms of getting into education and learning skills to help you with experience, okay? Even if you have a degree that you don’t use anymore, it forms the basis for what you do today.

An example is one of my best friends is a psychology major and he is a project manager for Amylin Pharmaceuticals, one of the biggest companies in the world. But he started as a psychology major but he uses that in every day. So education is very important.

Secondly, you want to look at your experience. What have you done in terms of the different types of tasks, different activities? Where have you worked? Do you have any type of military service? Any previous volunteer experience? Take a look at all these and take an inventory of these and these will help you determine what organization to volunteer for and also what specific tasks that you want to target when you do volunteer and network.

And then you want to look at your current skills. What are the skills that you currently have available to you that you use on a regular basis. These are going to be the skills that you can transfer most easily in a volunteering and networking environment.

But one thing we don’t want to forget about is we might have unique skills, okay? An example with me is when I was in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, we had to take two semesters of Latin and Greek word roots. So I have never got less than a hundred on the vocabulary or spelling test since I was 12 years old because of this reason. So a unique skill for me is when I work with people, I act as an editor, as a proofreader as a finalizer of texts and they really appreciate that especially in a volunteer organization.

And then lastly, desired skills. There might be certain things that you don’t currently do that you would be interested in. You may be a programmer and want to get involved in testing. You may be a tester and want to do some technical writing. Find out what those desired skills are and this is going to guide you to the specific organization and the task within that organization that you are going to use to volunteer and network.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! This all seems way too complicated, my friend. Because if I’m a project manager, and I’m thinking: “Okay! I’d like to volunteer for my professional organization. Do I really have to go through all of these, think about my education, my unique skills, my desired skills? Can I just give him a call and say ‘hey, give me a volunteering position?”

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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