By David Ong
April 13, 2021
David Ong is senior director for talent acquisition for Maximus. He is currently president-elect of NACE and assumes the role of president in July 2021.
When the team at NACE approached me to author a blog about my journey as a volunteer for NACE, a flood of memories came to mind, and those memories are accompanied by feelings of pride, joy, accomplishment….and admittedly a little stress on occasion as my tenure as the next president of NACE draws nearer. But hey, isn’t that typical when any of us are taking on a new responsibility?
My volunteer experience was admittedly not something that came to me immediately. I joined NACE in 2001, but it took nearly a decade for me to become involved as a volunteer (and trust me when I say I had several NACE leaders hounding me for several years to raise my hand to serve). I always found an excuse to not engage as a volunteer: 1) I was too busy with work responsibilities 2) I wasn’t enough of a subject matter expert to contribute to the NACE dialogue 3) My company wouldn’t support it…and so on and so on.
That said, I will never forget the moment that compelled me to finally bite the proverbial bullet. Just over 10 years ago, I read an email from NACE announcing the following year’s board of directors and noticed that a close friend had been named president-elect. I remember calling him immediately to congratulate him and tease him for taking on this huge responsibility, and from there, we had a nice chat.
Fast forward to a few weeks later when I saw him in person. He mentioned that he hoped to get some of his friends involved with some of his strategic priorities. I remember casually commenting that while I had historically avoided NACE responsibility, I would be willing to step up and do something under my friend’s presidential tenure.
A few months later, I received a message indicating that I had been asked to serve on the NACE conference committee. A lot of people had told me that the conference committee can be very intimidating, especially when you consider that committee members might have to review between 400 and 500 member proposals and decide which 60 or so programs would be selected for the conference. It felt like a ton of work and a lot of responsibility for someone who had NEVER before raised their hand for NACE service.
I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. I loved the committee members with whom I worked. I loved our committee co-chairs and marveled at their leadership. I loved being a part of something that celebrated the best practices in our industry. But what I loved most is knowing that I could make a difference, regardless of my relatively short NACE resume or my self-perceived lack of knowledge.
After completing that first NACE volunteer assignment, I realized that I had whetted my appetite for service. I found out that there were a lot of different ways to serve NACE, and I eventually became involved with the NACE mentor program, wrote a blog or two, chaired a committee or two. With inspiration from a few other NACE leaders, I have also served on both the Board of Directors and Executive Board. A few years ago, I felt that my volunteer experience with NACE was coming full circle when I was asked to co-chair the 2019 conference committee (probably my most anxiety-inducing yet most rewarding NACE experience to date, if I am being honest). I had always felt intimidated by that particular role for a many reasons: the workload, the significance of the conference, and the amazing example set by my conference committee chairs during my first volunteer experience. Once again, I was proven wrong. The volunteer role that intimidated me most may have proven to be the most rewarding experience yet, due to the relationship that I built with my co-chair at the time and the wonderfully dedicated group of volunteers who raised their hand to help with the committee. Together, we helped to create an experience of which we are still proud of today!
So, while it may have taken me a while to raise my hand, I have found the notion of volunteerism to be addictive.
NACE recently put out a call for volunteers for its committees and task forces. Members are encouraged to apply by Friday, April 23. NACE offers a range of volunteer options; one is right for you! See Get Involved to learn more.