Really, I was. I had no idea.

At last night’s Minnesota Women in Marketing & Communications (MWMC) Annual Year End Event, held at the lovely Minneapolis Event Center, I was presented the “Volunteer of the Year” award. I honestly did not see this coming.

Here’s the thing. I have created a lot for this organization (new branding, infographics, brochure, signage, swag and website), but purely out of love of what I do. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to show what I can do on a larger scale not always required by my current client base — and to work with teams of amazing talented, resourceful professional women. But above all that, it’s my way of paying it forward to an organization I can honestly attribute to successfully launching Grand Ciel Branding & Design. To this day, for just about every client and/or project, I can loop its source “on how did I land this” back to connections I have with MMWC.

The other thing is I don’t consider myself a “joiner.” Or a volunteer. At least not what I think of when I think of volunteers. I’m an introvert who needs plenty of “down” time to recoup and time to be creative. But joining and being part of something bigger than ourselves keeps us vitally connected and enriched — the stuff that makes a creative life or any life for that matter that much better. So joining and volunteering became something I’ve woven into my life. As a very dear friend and fellow designer said, “when it comes to volunteering, it has to be something you love and love doing, otherwise you won’t stay with it. (She found this out when she discovered her calling by working and training her rescue dog to be a service dog. She now volunteers her time and her canine companion’s to visit VA hospitals, assisted living centers and children’s wards).

Just as a side bar message for people just starting their career or in transition, volunteering can be a plus on a resume. For example, 73% of employers would employ candidates with volunteering experience over those without. Many employers consider volunteer experience at the same level as job experience — especially when it goes to building skill sets. 87% of employers regard volunteering as a ‘positive effect on career progression for young people’.

With that in mind, I can’t help but plug MWMC one more time. If your career is in marketing and communications, (and it’s a broader niche than you think), consider joining. And volunteering. MWMC has opportunities to take you out of your comfort zone (I can attest to that), let you share your know-how, build your skill set and give you experience step outside your everyday work life. Bonus: You’ll grow a lasting, — in very positive sense of the word —  formidable network— that I can personally attest to, too.

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