By Katherine Kirkpatrick-Wahl, Rotaract Club of Toronto, Canada
We are our own greatest networking asset. I realized that early on when I assumed the role of professional development director for my Rotaract club. It amazed me every time I spoke with one of our members how accomplished they were and how they were almost afraid to talk about what they had achieved in their relatively short careers. It became my mission to help members connect with each other. I did this in two ways, peer-workshops and members connect.
Peer workshops allow our members who might not be willing to talk about their skills in a general meeting to share them with the club. So far, we have learned about LinkedIn strategies, interview skills, and how to get organized (to name a few). These workshops have taken place over coffee and doughnuts with ten or more of our members gathered together apart from our regular meeting. Club members learn new things and the presenter has a chance to go deeper on their topic.
These workshops have taken place over coffee and doughnuts
Caitlin Goodmurphy, for example, was job searching and therefore had researched cover letters and resumes. Preparing for her Peer Workshop gave her direction on her own job search and putting together her resume and cover letter. The info helped several other members also in the job hunt. Some learned for the first time that there are different types of resumes and they should be tailored for a particular job.
The second idea came from conversations I had with other Rotaract clubs. Our club has been around for almost 40 years and we currently have more than 60 members. We are fortunate to find speakers from the community to talk about a variety of topics. However, speaking with other Rotaractors from around the world, I realized that many other Rotaract clubs had their own members speak at meetings. This allows members to learn about each other and gives members a chance to practice their speaking and presentation skills.
It could be there first meeting or their hundredth.
I knew that I really wanted to do something similar and so we created Members Connect. Two volunteers from the club meet and find a topic they are mutually interested in, and then prepare a five-to-ten-minute presentation for our club’s general meeting. It could be there first meeting or their hundredth. I try to connect people who aren’t close friends, this way they get to know someone new.
Over the last year and a half since Members Connect started, we have learned about:
- the history of waffles
- how children’s outdoor engagement is critical to their eye development
- underrated movie directors that we should know about
- the culture shock of moving to Toronto.
Our members enjoy participating in Members Connect as well as learning about different topics that we wouldn’t otherwise find speakers to talk about. I find I am continually asked when the next one will take place.
These two simple activities have put professional development at the forefront of our club and focused us on member engagement. Members benefit by learning how to talk about themselves and promote what they are good at, an important skill in today’s economy. Our Rotaract club has always been focused on getting our hands dirty and helping the community (both local and international). But sometimes it’s important to remember that professional development is one of the pillar of Rotary/Rotaract as well.