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Tip: Thinking about Service
Three questions to help you say "YES!" to some opportunities for service, and "NO!" to others.
As the semester - and academic year - come to an end, it’s probably about time for institutions to start the committee recruitment process. At my institution, committee appointments are a careful balance of employee profiles to get a certain diversity of job classifications, and department/campus affiliations. It’s challenging from the institution side, certainly, but today I want to address service from the individual perspective. There are almost always more opportunities for service than free time in one’s schedule, so being really thoughtful about what we can and cannot commit to is the best way to keep from getting overwhelmed. I have three questions that help me reflect on what I can reasonably do.
QUESTION #1: Can I make a strong and unique contribution?
While it’s important to worry about time commitments or what I might get out of participating, I also want to ask:
How can I contribute to the work of this committee, cause, events, etc?
If not me, is there someone else who could better contribute?
To be able to gauge the relative importance of your contribution, you also need to ask…
QUESTION #2: Is the scope of the work clear?
Think both in terms of tasks to be completed and time commitment of meetings.
If there are regular meetings, are they time-limited - one meeting of one hour each month versus meeting “as needed”?
If it’s a task-focused committee, is there enough time to do the work?
To be able to decide if the scope of work is worth the effort, I also consider…
QUESTION #3: Does this commitment contribute to my professional growth?
Does your participation bring your work to the attention on the radar of people you might want to impress?
Is the focus of the work something that you feel passionately about?
You can think about these questions in any order - start with the one that makes the most sense for you. The key is getting to the inner circle of YES! I want to do this! and staying out of the danger zone of activities you really ought to say NO to.
If a service opportunity you’re being asked to do meets none of these criteria, then it might be time to learn the art of saying no. I hope this helps you think through what you should - and should not - commit to for the coming academic year…