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Volunteering for professional development

Professional development refers to increasing our knowledge or our skills, but it can also include increasing our network. There are a variety of professional development opportunities available to us within our careers. Some of the most common ones include conferences, workshops or classes (in person or online).

Working in higher ed often forces us to do more with fewer resources. Many institutions don’t have large professional development budgets. It can be difficult to get funding to take classes or attend professional events like conferences.

Brian Piper
Brian Piper

One of the most effective ways (for both time and cost) to find growth opportunities is through expanding our professional network. The more people we know in our industry, the more likely we are to hear about new projects, new jobs and new areas of growth.

A recent LinkedIn study showed that members with at least 13 connections from companies other than their current employer are 22.9% faster in transitioning to their next job than those who do not meet this bar.

An excellent way to take charge of expanding your own network is through volunteering. Spending a few hours volunteering each month can provide countless opportunities.

Let’s look at one example within HighEdWeb. One of the current volunteer positions is for Community Group Leader. This position requires the volunteer to seek out experts in a particular area of knowledge, gather them together to have a conversation, and address questions from users who need guidance in that area.

The current community groups include analytics, accessibility, web governance, Drupal, social media, management and leadership, project management and email marketing.

The great thing about this position is that you don’t have to be an expert to be able to ask the questions and you don’t even have to ask the questions if you can get one of your panelists to also act as the moderator. HighEdWeb is filled with people who have been focusing on particular areas for many years. They understand the ins and outs of different tools, processes and concepts. They know what has been most effective for them and what hasn’t.

When looking for ways to expand your knowledge of a particular area, what better way is there than to gather experts and ask them questions?

Having done this role before, and having a process for organizing and managing these conversations, I can tell you that it takes about an hour of preparation and reaching out to different experts and then an hour of time running the meeting.

So, for the cost of a few hours of time each month, you can have access to some of the brightest, most capable and knowledgeable minds from the industry in a particular area of interest. This particular role also includes free registration for the annual conference. You can also earn rewards for your volunteer time which can be used to purchase access to other events. And you get to give back to an excellent organization that provides incredible resources and benefits to its members. So, consider volunteering for a community group leader role today or exploring one of the many other volunteer opportunities within HighEdWeb.

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By Brian Piper

Brian Piper is Director of Content Strategy and Assessment for the University of Rochester Department of Communications. Brian has been doing SEO and web content optimization since 1996. He has created online training programs for hundreds of companies including Xerox, Carestream, Kodak and Volvo. He has spent the past 7 years focusing on data analytics, digital marketing and content strategy. He is currently diving into Web3, blockchain and NFT applications in higher ed.

When he's not creating data visualizations, he teaches wingsuit skydiving and spends time with his wife and six children.