I first joined a voluntary organisation because I wanted to do something good for my community and meet some interesting new people. As I got more involved, I was quickly drawn into attending workshops and putting the skills being trained into practice via projects and committee roles. I realised the benefits these activities could bring and embraced the personal development opportunities available to me (all the while still fulfilling my wish to meet inspiring people and do some good).
Through my membership of JCI and Toastmasters, I have undertaken a huge range of activities, including chairing meetings of up to 40 people, taking part in debating competitions on three continents and training leadership and teambuilding skills at events across the country and Europe.
I began to use the skills I was learning through my extra-curricular roles in my day job:
- Facilitating client and department meetings and workshops
- Presenting expert evidence in court, the format of which almost took the form of a debate
- Running teambuilding and business planning activities in workshops and away days
I’ve pondered whether I got these opportunities because of my position, my willingness to participate or because those around me had the confidence that I was able to handle these challenges. In all likelihood, it was all three. If I did not have these skills, acquired by pushing myself to be a better leader and speaker in personal development organisations, or the willingness to put myself in situations which many would find uncomfortable, then these opportunities (which ultimately helped me progress my career) would not have presented themselves.
I’m grateful to my managers who encouraged me to bring new ideas to our team and to my colleagues who humoured me when I asked them to do (sometimes strange-sounding) things we’d never tried before.
I love personal development for the opportunity to learn a new skill, the buzz you get having accomplished something you couldn’t previously do and the interaction with other people who encourage you to go further. I’m absolutely convinced that the new skills, perspectives and confidence I gained through personal development activities allowed me to accelerate my career much faster than if I hadn’t been spending my free time developing these skills. I appreciate that everyone may not have the capacity and inclination to commit quite as much time to personal development as me, but I wholeheartedly believe that even a little investment in this area, plus the attitude to embrace having a go at something new, can go a long way.