Think about this question. So many different connotations can be given to this question depending on the tone of voice, setting, and who is asking the question. If your mother asks you this question, you think “No, ma’am. It was Jimmy’s fault.” It brings back memories of broken windows and baseballs. If a policeman asks you this question, a similar response may spring to mind. But what if you are asked this question in a job interview? More than likely, the question encompasses not some crime you may or may not have committed but rather what kind of organizations or associations with which you have been involved.
So many resumes that are sent to me for review make no mention of involvements – either professional or charitable. I realize people are extremely busy these days but being involved in a professional organization is a benefit to a career rather than a hindrance. Being involved in your industry organizations not only provides you with opportunities for continuing education, but also greatly expands your professional network. You find out about job opportunities that aren’t advertised yet. You meet people who are in a position to mentor you, recommend you to others, or employ you. Professional organization involvement allows you to stay on the cutting edge of developments in your industry. Employers are aware of all these benefits to you, and secondarily to them through you. Employers like to see involvements because it speaks loudly to your ability to work in a team, work toward a larger goal, and have vision.
Not only should you join an organization but you should also become involved in them. Volunteer to work special events or sit on a committee. Just paying dues, showing up at the annual meeting, and reading the newsletter does not constitute “involvement”. You have to actually do something to be involved. Holding an office in an organization provides good experience and fodder for resume material.
Do you volunteer for charitable organizations? Working on fundraising campaigns or volunteering your time is also great experience to include on a resume and shows the employer a civic-minded spirit. Find a charity that interests you or whose mission holds special meaning for you. You are more likely to enjoy your involvement if you choose a charity that has an emotional tie for you.
There are many charitable and political organizations that are eager for your time and sponsorship in other ways. Not all are advisable to list on a resume. Political action committees or charities/organizations that take a particularly radical stance may not help in your job search but rather hinder. Organizations that allude to your personal religious, political, or social preferences may scare employers off. I’m not saying it’s bad to be involved in such organizations but it may be inadvisable to list them on the resume.
Get out and get involved in something, whether it is an industry association or a charitable organization. You’ll gain more than you give while building connections and experience that is invaluable.