Career Boosters: The value of volunteering

Looking at the value of volunteerism to those looking to get ahead in the communication industries

Rachel Scott and Trina Boos June 02, 2014

Career Boosters is usually an e-panel discussion that scouts out leaders in the marketing, digital, communications and advertising space to provide their perspectives on industry topics related to career development, talent acquisition and hiring practices. This month, however, Career Boosters looks at the value of volunteerism to those looking to get ahead in the communication industries.

Today’s panel: Lisa Kimmel is general manager at Edelman Toronto, and Alex Rascanu is director of marketing and operations at Conversion

Where have you volunteered your time?

Lisa Kimmel

Lisa: My parents taught me the importance of volunteering from an early age. Over the years, I’ve committed my time to activities that interest me, including Fashion Cares, the Canadian Public Relations Society, and the International Association of Business Communicators.

Given my hectic schedule, I now focus my volunteer efforts on two areas: arts and culture and mentorship. I currently sit on the boards of Harbourfront Centre and SKETCH. I’m also involved in the American Marketing Association (AMA) Mentor Exchange program.

Alex: In the past, I volunteered with numerous non-profit organizations (e.g. University of Toronto Governing Council, AIESEC, Endeavour Volunteer Consulting for Non-profits) and as part of political campaigns at all three levels of government (in Canada and the U.K.). I also organized Inbound Marketing Toronto, a digital marketing event series that grew to a membership of over 700 and saw speakers from Google, Expedia, P&G, Intuit, Canada Post, salesforce.com and many other reputable companies. A good part of my free time is now dedicated to growing Marketers Without Borders, a non-profit organization.

Why did you choose to volunteer for these initiatives?

Alex Rascanu

Lisa: I want to give my time and PR expertise to helping organizations that can benefit from my skill set.

As for devoting my time to mentorship, I’m part of Edelman’s Global Women’s Executive Network (GWEN) steering committee, and am responsible for driving mentorship efforts across our global network. I also want to help guide those who are up-and-coming in the industry. I’ve been fortunate throughout my career, and want to “pay it forward” to young, talented people in our profession.

Alex: I founded Marketers Without Borders to connect marketers with powerful causes that have a demonstrable socio-economic impact in disadvantaged communities in Canada and around the world. Doctors have the opportunity to make a significant impact in other peoples’ lives by serving with Doctors Without Borders and Medair. Engineers have Engineers Without Borders and Engineering Ministries International. Most marketers also desire to give back to society by working on local and international social innovation projects, and Marketers Without Borders exists to provide social marketing training and to connect them with opportunities to help hurting children and families step into a world of hope.

How did volunteering help you progress in your career?

Lisa: Volunteering allows you to stretch your strategic, creative and critical thinking skills – often allowing you to take more risks than you might otherwise. You can then take those learnings – and that newfound confidence – and apply them to your “day job.”

You also have the opportunity to be exposed to, and network with, people across a range of industries, professions and backgrounds that may benefit you in your career.

Alex: If you desire to be a true leader, you need to be passionate, hard working, and a servant of those whom you’re leading. Volunteering has helped me learn these things. It has allowed me to explore numerous areas of interest before figuring out what I’m most passionate about (digital marketing and connecting people with their purpose). It showed me how diligence and delivering above expectations is critical whether someone is watching or not – what matters is how much value you’re adding to the end user. And it showed me that we’re meant to serve others, rather than waiting for them to serve us. Understanding and applying these things has helped me progress in my career and I believe that these principles can help others grow in their professions as well.

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How has volunteering helped you from a business perspective?

Lisa: Volunteering has led to new business opportunities for Edelman, and, over the years, I’ve also tapped into my volunteer network for professional advice, connections and introductions.

Alex: Volunteering my time after hours has helped me see the bigger picture and the kinds of opportunities that Conversion can tap into. I joined the firm just over a month ago and you’ll be hearing more and more about it, in part due to our hands-on community volunteering, speaking engagements, scholarships, and other initiatives through which we try to give back.

Tell us about a unique opportunity that presented itself as a result of your volunteer activities

Lisa: Edelman Canada has a national CSR initiative called “The Little Give,” where over a 48-hour period, employees are divided up into teams to support a grassroots not-for-profit organization. In year one, SKETCH was one of the recipient organizations, and the executive director, Rudy Ruttimann, approached me and asked if I would sit on SKETCH’s board. I’ve been involved ever since! In this case, a professional volunteer experience resulted in a community volunteer one, for which I am deeply grateful.

Alex: Trina Boos, president of Boost Agents, attended one of my monthly digital marketing events late last year. In late February, she delivered at that very event a well-received presentation on how one should plan their marketing career. Shortly after that, she introduced me to the leadership of Conversion and I was hired as their director of marketing and operations. An activity I was doing in my free time lead to the opportunity to join a great firm that I enjoy being a part of.

Why is it important to continue volunteering throughout your career?

Lisa: Volunteering provides you with the opportunity to gain exposure to issues and opportunities that may not be presented in your professional career. You then have the opportunity to bring back those experiences to your professional work, thereby enriching it. In addition, I fundamentally believe in the importance of giving back to the causes that are close to your heart, and at the same time, I’m setting a positive example to others, including my kids, on why volunteering matters.

Alex: Volunteering reminds us that we’re here to love and serve others, not to advance in our careers at any cost. Cut-throat tactics might work for a season, but if you value sleeping well at night and want your life to represent something positive to others I recommend volunteering throughout your career. It will allow you to give back, tap into new perspectives and resources, and enrich your personal and professional life.

Rachel Scott is the marketing and content manager and Trina Boos is president of Boost Agents, a specialist recruitment provider to the marketing, advertising, design and communications industry.