What a ride the last four or five months have been! I have been trying to write this piece for so long but have just not been able to complete it, no matter how many times I left it open on my laptop. But I got there. Better late than never!
Since October I have closed out a number of contracts for my own consulting firm, started a new role managing the day-to-day operations of a 50-person business, hosted a three-year-old’s 50-person birthday party and the same again for a 40th, bought and moved into a new house and hosted a number of Christmas/New Year’s events with people staying at our home. I’ve also undertaken an organisational restructure including some major recruitment efforts, finished two mentoring relationships and started another two (both mentoring and being mentored), launched a new product, kicked off a site expansion project worth over $2 million, redeveloped our new backyard by hand (except for our fabulous new lawn, which thankfully was completed by a pro!), maintained a role on three boards and drove the implementation of a number of major changes at work. There is also the exciting announcement of AusIMM’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion, which you can read more about here. It’s been rather busy. But I don’t think I would’ve done it any differently if I had the choice.
It’s at times like this, when I’m past busy and into hectic, that I wonder why I take on challenging roles and volunteer my time for causes. I never get close to ticking off my list, I spend less time with family and friends (including my bed and running shoes!) and I start to make poor food decisions. I get to the point where I’m thinking it’s time to change – to reduce my board commitments, to step back from volunteering and fundraising, to mentor a few less people, to reduce my own professional development activities and to spend less time on work commitments. Then I stop and think about why I do what I do and the benefits that come from my involvement – benefits for me, my family, and the broader community.
Without volunteers, a lot of critical organisations would come to a stop. Millions of people in Australia alone would be affected in a negative way. Families would go without food, more people would be without a roof over their head, most sporting clubs would fold, and professionals would miss out on valuable developmental opportunities. Just think of all the activities run by the AusIMM that wouldn’t be there without volunteers, including networking events, conferences and mentoring programs.
Thinking about the flow-on effect that being a volunteer has had on my own life, I have no doubt that I would not be where I was today had I not put my hand up to contribute to organisations such as local sporting clubs, Variety the Children’s Charity, the Women in Mining Network and the AusIMM as a whole. I wouldn’t have developed many of the skills I now possess. I wouldn’t have met the thousands of talented and inspirational people who I’ve crossed paths with over the years, many of whom have become close friends, mentors, and professional sponsors.
I also wouldn’t have had the amazing and memorable experiences that have come my way through donating my time and energy to others. Putting my hand up to help has resulted in travelling through parts of Australia that the public never gets to see, learning about the lives of people whose stories help me realise just how wonderful my life is when I’m feeling at my lowest, as well as being able to head behind the scenes of not just world-famous entertainment acts and sporting events, but also the operations of companies that have blown my mind with what I’ve learned.
I’ve had the heart-warming and extremely satisfying chance to mentor professionals who have gone on to achieve their goals and a whole lot more. All they needed was someone to talk through their goals (and fears) with, to give them a few pointers and a few connections along the way, just a little encouragement to enable them to step up and take hold of their career without looking back. I’ve also had the chance to be mentored by some seriously talented individuals. Sometimes it’s been an opportunistic half-hour conversation, sometimes it’s been developing a life-long relationship with someone who you can call on whenever you need advice. All these opportunities have come through my volunteering activities.
It’s relatively easy to sit on a committee, to have your name on the list. But it’s bloody hard to actually contribute at an effective level, to throw yourself into a space where you’re giving with no expectation of receiving in return but still donating regular time and effort to other people. It takes a focus that often goes unnoticed. You have to work harder (usually out-of-hours), prioritise sometimes boring activities over fun and family, think differently and challenge others, influence without having control, spend money that you often don’t have, constantly learn, and deal with confronting and often frustrating situations. But let me tell you, it’s worth it.
Volunteering, getting involved and leaning into the discomfort that comes with putting up your hand to say ‘why not! I’ll give it a shot!’, is an invaluable opportunity to expand your horizons. You learn things, meet people, and have experiences you will never get in the workplace and because you’re not being paid to do it, you (just quietly) feel a little more okay with taking on bigger challenges and making those few extra mistakes critical to your own development. If you aren’t already including an unpaid role in your career journey, now is the time to find one. You won’t look back!
On a final note, one of the things helping to keep me and many other AusIMM volunteers busy over the last year has been organising the inaugural Achieve & Inspire Conference, being held on Friday 18 May in Sydney. An exciting addition to the Institute’s conference calendar, Achieve & Inspire is about doing just that. Attendees will hear from a number of inspiring individuals with plenty of achievements under their belt on their own stories as well as innovative things that are happening.
We’ve got leaders such as MCA Chairman Vanessa Guthrie, GHD General Manager Phil Duthie, BHP Olympic Dam’s Asset President Jacqui McGill and Chair of the West Tigers NRL Club Marina Go. Think of it as a group mentoring session where you can learn how a diverse group of successful professionals got to the top and where they think the future is headed, as well as how you can be a part of it. It is designed for everyone, no matter your age, gender, cultural background, position, education or experience level.
This is not a traditional discipline-specific conference full of technical papers being presented. Achieve & Inspire is jam-packed full of personal, diverse and engaging sessions where you can learn from the best about leadership, personal development, innovative thinking and utilising the differences offered by the workforce of the future. Attendees will take away a bunch of learnings, will have their thinking challenged and will meet some amazing people at the same time. To top it off, as part of the low ticket price we have managed to arrange a wine tasting during the conference as well as a chance to connect with everyone at a networking event that evening. Not a bad way to spend a Friday, is it? Grab your spot at Achieve & Inspire at achieveinspire.ausimm.com.