If, like me, you are an occupational therapist you may, over the last day or so, have opened your latest edition of OTNews and seen a call for nominations to regional committee vacancies. Of the 13 regions comprising the Royal College of Occupational Therapists 11 have committee vacancies and the other 2 are welcoming co-opted members. Each committee has 7 defined roles and in some of the regions 6 of these roles are vacant. So here is an opportunity to make a contribution to our profession.

Opportunities to take up voluntary roles on committees within our employing organisation, special interest groups and professional bodies arise on a regular basis for health professionals. But putting yourself forward can raise many questions which hold us back from volunteering. Has it ever crossed your mind to put yourself forward but something has held you back? If so then read on.

Reasons to give it a go.

I’m guessing for many of us the positive are familiar. They are the things that organisations and existing committee members say to entice us in. But lets, for the sake of completeness revisit them. Here are just a few:

  • contributing your thoughts, ideas, perspectives. They matter, they are important and whatever you may think you have a unique contribution to make
  • making a difference to your profession. Yes you really can and will
  • building your networks. Suddenly you become more widely connected and open to new views and perspectives
  • connecting deeper with your community. Committees we volunteer for are usually part of our community of practice/interest, we share the same interest which is why we are there
  • increasing your knowledge about things you never dreamt of. You’re horizons are broadened and you find out what is going on outside of your usual circle of operation
  • developing new skills and expertise. These include communication, project management, organisation, writing, reviewing, budgeting
  • adding to your CV. You are demonstrating that you are actively engaged and the kind of person who is keen to stretch into new areas.
  • having fun. Yes there are laughs along the way

From time to time I’ve been accused of being a bit of a glass half full person so OK let’s be honest here committee work does come with its challenges. Being a task and finish kind of person making decision by committee isn’t one of my strongest points, neither is sitting quietly and patiently whilst points are debated and discussed ad nauseam and never reach a conclusion. Whilst I have tried hard to be a dutiful minute taker and produce timely minutes they can morph into bullet points and come out on a ‘just in time’ basis.

I’m sure anyone who has served on a committee will have others to add. However, every single committee I have been involved with has provided me with a unique range of opportunities and experiences.

So if the list of positives sounds good what could be holding you back? Maybe one or all of the following questions.

Do I have enough time?

Of course probably the most valuable cost of serving on a committee is the time commitment. So let’s address this one first. If you are reading this thinking ‘I don’t have enough time’ my response is, we all have the same 24 hours in a day and it is ours to decide how we spend it.

The people serving on committees are almost definitely working under the same pressures and juggling similar demands of work and personal life as you, so it is possible to do. They have decided that allocating time to a particular committee is important to them and given it priority over other things. Therefore if you are worried about time maybe a different question to explore is how important is this to me? Is it important enough for me to make the time and if so what changes do I need to make? Only you know the answer to that question.

Perhaps the allocation of time isn’t under your control. In some instances committees meet during the working day and may involve travel and time out of work. In such instances discussions will be needed with line managers. Make sure you have these discussions before putting yourself forward.

To give yourself a good chance of securing a positive outcome before the discussion takes place give some thought to how taking up this position will benefit your organisation (and there will usually be benefits) as well as your personal development. You may even want to flag up working at a more strategic level via committee work in your personal development review.

Maybe I’m not good enough or experienced enough?

Any thoughts along these lines have the sound of an inner critic voice, or the voice of self-doubt. Time to do some realistic thinking. Rather than listening to the voice which is saying this grab a piece of paper and jot down the things you know you have to offer. You may need to do this for any application you need to make anyway, so an exercise well worth doing. How do you feel now? If this is hard ask a colleague who knows you well to help you.

If having read your list you are still in doubt it is common for committee roles to have role descriptions. Have a look and see if you have the relevant experience. If you are still in doubt arrange to connect with the chair of the committee and have an informal discussion.

I may not get accepted

A tough one this and yes, this may be the case. For some committees there is a formal process of nomination, selection and possibly voting which can feel intimidating. You are laying yourself open and becoming vulnerable. Time to celebrate of course if you are selected, but if you’re not there is no escaping some degree of disappointment.

As some of you will know I was nominated to stand in the election of Chair of Council for the Royal College of Occupational Therapists this year which goes out to a vote of the entire membership. Yes, it did feel scary when I submitted my nomination forms and yes of course I was nervous when the ballot papers came out and no, on this occasion, I didn’t get elected.

Of course it was disappointing why wouldn’t it be? But, do you know what, I am glad I tried rather than wondering, ‘what if’ and I am proud of myself for having the courage to try. In any election process where more than one person is standing someone will be disappointed but, once you have done some serious self-care (chocolate and cake comes to mind) you can dust yourself down and move on.

An end note.

I know that quite a few people who read this blog are familiar with the work of Brene Brown and one of the quotes she uses often in her work is from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

I love this quote and I know where I would rather be standing! So if, an opportunity to join a committee arises and you have a desire to contribute – jump into the arena.

Picture courtesy of Breather via Unsplash