The Value in Volunteering

By Jay Killough posted 04-20-2021 08:30


By Jay Killough

Jay Killough is the director of the Texas Tech University Career Center.

April 20, 2021

Growing up in Clovis, New Mexico, my first opportunity to volunteer as a young kid was through my grandfather with Meals on Wheels. I will be honest and say it was not my choice to volunteer, but I begrudgingly went along with his request. I remember riding around town in his old, dusty El Camino delivering meals to those in need. My grandfather was a retired educator in town and well known in the community. I can remember the joy on people’s faces as we delivered their meal for the day, which led to small talk and catching up on the hot topic of the day. He always wanted to help others who needed it. It was an impressionable learning experience for me personally and I now realize that it initiated a behavioral pattern in my life. Throughout high school, college, and my professional life, many other volunteer opportunities presented themselves, mainly during busy, inconvenient times where I could have otherwise declined and said no. I am glad I did not say no.

Allow me to fast-forward in life to describe a pivotal learning experience regarding volunteer work. As a recent graduate of Texas Tech University, I was able to get a job in the University Career Center. Along with the new job, I had just started a master’s program and immersed myself in work and school, leaving little time for much else. As I shut out the outside world, my associate director volunteered me for her expiring Board of Directors term with our local Prevent Blindness chapter, even though I had zero experience in Board volunteerism. Reluctantly, I agreed even though the timing was not ideal. Nervously, I showed up to our first Board meeting and glanced around the room only to see seasoned pillars of our local community. Immediately, I was intimidated; I was a lowly young professional and felt I did not belong. However, our president at the time was a wonderful human being who coached me through that first meeting. Our President quickly informed me of the “Three W’s” of volunteering: wisdom, wealth, and work. I lacked in the first two W’s, but my pattern of previous volunteer service provided me with the capacity and experience to work. I now understood my expectations for the Board and experienced a change in mindset.

After a few years, my term came to an end and my next experience in volunteerism came through the Southwest Association of Colleges and Employers (SWACE). My director encouraged volunteering for the organization. In order to immerse myself in the organization, I figured it would be a good idea to volunteer with the Registration Committee as a way to get to know all the members. It was a wonderful way to get to know the scope and depth of the university members and employer members who all shared a similar goal in coaching and recruiting students for employment. After serving as a member of the Registration Committee, the chair of the committee left their position, and I was promoted to chair. Not long after that, the Registration Board member left that position and I was asked to be on the Board of Directors for SWACE. Once again, it was an inopportune time with many other responsibilities going on in my life. Nonetheless, I hesitantly agreed, and the same fears and intimidations reemerged as I attended our first Board meeting. Negative thoughts consumed me: “What am I doing here? This budget is incredibly complicated! I don’t know what I’m doing!” In the end, everything worked out and it was an incredibly humbling, educational, and rewarding experience in learning how to give back.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and through the encouragement and motivation of others in the profession, many more volunteer opportunities presented themselves, including Board work with the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers (SoACE), a Presidential term with SoACE, and currently serving as a NACE ambassador. Following my life’s behavioral pattern, these opportunities all came at inopportune times in my life. However, I will say this: I do not regret for one minute volunteering for these wonderful organizations.

My grandfather saw something in me I did not see in myself. There are many times when we are selfish with our time, and it is easy to say no to volunteer opportunities. A piece of advice if you will indulge me for a minute: No matter how busy you are, or what is going on in your life, if a mentor asks you to serve in a volunteer capacity, say yes. It will be hard work and it will be stress added to your already busy day, but the bigger picture is what is important. Having a servant attitude and putting aside one’s own agenda to provide wisdom, wealth, or work in a volunteer opportunity can not only change your own life but possibly the lives of others as well.