How I Handled the Need for a New Challenge
Written by Maria Peot, Event Planner
Back in 2011, when I decided to fully pursue my career in the events industry, I enrolled in the Meeting & Event Management Program at Madison College. Going back to school was a bit strange for me, but I had graduated from UW-Madison only a couple of years before, so getting back into school mode wasn’t too much of a stretch. And, this time, I was in school for something I was passionate about and KNEW that I wanted to do.
Joining a Professional Organization
On the very first day of classes, my instructors encouraged all of the students to join Meeting Professionals International (MPI) to network and get to know people in the industry. This would be the connection to internships, jobs, resources, friendships, etc. as I pursued this new career. I jumped on the opportunity and joined the Wisconsin Chapter of MPI. The leaders in the organization saw me as an eager, motivated student with work experience, and seized the opportunity to get me involved in volunteering.
I have a hard time saying “no” when asked to do something, so I did A LOT for the organization. I joined the Spring Education Days planning committee; I was a liaison between the organization and the students in the Madison College program; I became co-editor of the Agenda Magazine, and eventually accepted a nomination to the Board of Directors.
My Time on the MPI-WI Board
While on the Board, I served in a variety of roles, each of which taught me something new about myself and working with other people. I grew a lot during this time, had three different day jobs, and expanded my network immensely. After several years on the board, I started to feel pressure to take the “presidency track.” This was TERRIFYING. As cool as it might be to say I served as President of the WI Chapter of MPI, I really had no desire to lead the organization, much less commit to three more years on the Board, countless hours of conference calls, numerous required events and conferences in and out of the state, and more. I declined not only the opportunity to pursue the role of President, but also declined a nomination to continue to serve on the Board for the coming year.
This was not an easy decision for me. MPI-WI had become a family to me, and many of my friends are people I met through this organization. I looked forward to the monthly Board meetings and education sessions, and not just because it meant a day out of the office. Why was I leaving this?
The answer came pretty quickly to me…I was no longer getting out of MPI-WI what I was putting into it. The volunteerism, which originally was enjoyable and rewarding, had become stale and boring and now felt like a chore. Once I came to this realization, I knew I was making the right decision and no longer doubted myself. Phew!
But now…what was I going to do with all my time? I’ve been involved in organizations and volunteering my entire life. In grade school, it was Girl Scouts. In middle school, I volunteered with my family for the Wisconsin Donor Network. In high school and college, I was involved with countless groups and organizations, many of which included a volunteer component. After graduating college, I volunteered weekly at the Ronald McDonald House in Madison. I was always part of SOMETHING outside of work and school, and I didn’t want to lose that aspect of my life.
Before I made the decision to decline the nomination to the MPI-WI Board for the coming year, I had a conversation with my mom, telling her how I felt about giving up this volunteer aspect of my life. She encouraged me to seek other opportunities for volunteering. I had been volunteering with MPI-WI for seven years – that’s a long time! So finding something new, although exciting, was kind of daunting. My mom is a dedicated volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House in Milwaukee, and with my history with the organization and the fact that I now live in that area, it would be a natural transition for me to start volunteering there with her. But it didn’t feel right. I had been to the Milwaukee House before, and although it’s a great organization, I didn’t feel the same personal connection I had with the Madison House. I didn’t want to constantly compare these two organizations, so I knew I needed to pursue something different.
Going Out of My Comfort Zone
During that same conversation, my mom said to me, “Have you ever considered Big Brothers Big Sisters?” I kind of scoffed at the idea, because it seemed SO out of my comfort zone, and not something for which I thought I was capable or qualified. But over the next couple of weeks, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. It started to grow on me. I don’t have kids of my own, but I know I have a lot to give of that part of my heart. I started to think it was EXACTLY what I should be doing with my newfound free time.
The application process was pretty intense – they conducted a background check and interviewed friends and family. I spent nearly two hours in a conference room at the BBBS office answering questions about myself and my upbringing, and another two hours in the same conference room for Volunteer Pre-match Training. A couple weeks later, I was excited to receive this letter in the mail:
Yay! I passed! I was accepted! And then…I waited.
Luckily for me, I did not have to wait long to be matched with my “Little Sister.” There is a much longer list of kids waiting to be matched with mentors than vice versa, but I was still anxious during the month that passed between when I got that letter and when I got the call about my match.
The volunteer work I am doing now through Big Brothers Big Sisters is SO very different than the volunteer work I was involved with through MPI. However, I am challenging myself a whole lot more, and getting outside of my comfort zone. My time is valuable, and I am proud to spend some of it with this organization. I am also lucky that my employer supports my involvement as well. It is one of the many reasons I am proud to work at First Business.
What type of volunteerism do you find challenging and rewarding? How do decide how to dedicate your free time? I’d love to hear your ideas for the next time I get the “itch” to try something new!