I’ve written numerous times about how joining a Toastmasters club can help your career based on what you learn from going through the program. However, not everyone is interested in joining a speaking club and not everyone’s goals involve communication skills. The good news is that there are hundreds of clubs out there for every interest. You can find clubs for hobbies on topics such as sewing, reading (book clubs), chess, cribbage, car enthusiast and even video games. There are clubs that focus on business or political issues as well as public service. And there are clubs that are community focused that can focus on anything from improving a neighborhood to planning statewide events. My point is that there’s a club for practically every interest and most of these clubs (unless it’s something bizarre such as a fetish club) can give you an opportunity to move ahead with your job or business.
The great thing about clubs is that your involvement is the perfect win-win situation. The club wins because volunteers help run the club and provide the benefits to the members. The volunteer wins because he or she gets experience that otherwise might not be available to him or her with their current job. This experience falls into several categories and depending on the club and the position, not all of them may be present.
1. Team skills
Club officers need to work as a team to accomplish club goals. That means that as a volunteer, you need to work with a group that might have different, and occasionally, conflicting personalities. If your work role is primarily an isolated one, this is a great opportunity for you to learn how to deal with people, resolve conflicts and negotiate.
2. Leadership skills.
This takes team skills to the next level. In addition to learning to work with people, you need to learn to motivate them. I can tell you from experience that it’s easier to motivate people who report to you in the workplace than it is with a club. In the former, those working for you are motivated by the desire to not lose their job. In the latter case, you often are working with people who have no financial loss by not doing what you ask them to. So leading a team in a club setting is an excellent crash course in management.
3. Sales Skills.
If you desire to leave your current job and start a business, club involvement can give you a taste of some of the skills you’ll need to be successful. Some roles require you to contact businesses for donations or favors (such as using their facilities for meetings or events). This often means making cold calls, which is a critical skill for anyone in sales or small business owners. Additionally you’ll get experience in all phases of the sales process including identifying prospects, contacting them, following up and closing.
4. Financial Skills.
Clubs have to manage their money. Most clubs take in dues and have at least some expenses so the opportunity exists to learn basic accounting, budgeting and bookkeeping skills – skills useful for all business owners and many managers. If you’re in a treasurer role, you’ll also get to develop a relationship with bank personnel that you might not otherwise have access to.
5. Marketing & Public Relations Skills.
Small business owners have numerous responsibilities and promoting their business is high on their priority list. If you’re unemployed or looking to advance your career, the skills that you learn from promoting club activities can help you reach your goals. Marketing the club often involves working with local news outlets and will provide you with contacts there. Learning to write copy that attracts the eye will help ensure the next ad for your business or the next resume you send out gets read.
6. Computer skills.
Want to get experience creating websites? Then build one for your club. If you want to learn more about Facebook or Twitter, you can run the social media accounts for you club and learn those skills. Clubs may require computer use in anything from drawing programs to accounting software to programs that produce newsletters. So keep an ear out for these opportunities as they aren’t always obvious.
7. Writing Skills.
Writing an article for the club newsletter (or managing the whole newsletter) is a great way to build a resume of writing. But you can also get great business writing experience by helping to compose the various letters that clubs need such as letters to members who forgot to pay their dues or press releases about big events.
There are probably other skills that you can think of that you can pick up by getting involved with your club. For example, attending events will help you learn how to network or giving a speech will help you polish your presentation skills. As an added benefit mentioned in some of the categories above, you can also develop contacts in areas that you otherwise wouldn’t get access to. These contacts can often help you (both directly and indirectly) with your other activities, but remember that you’re initial purpose to accomplish the club’s business.
So if you’re part of a club, try to find ways to get involved so that you can learn new skills. If there currently aren’t any opportunities for the skills you’re looking for, propose a project. For example, if you’re interested in video production, propose to head up a project to create a video overview of the club for Youtube. Clubs are always looking for more help, so the opportunity to get involved is waiting for you.