What I Learned by Serving on a Committee

15. June 2012

Ahmed Kablan

For the past eight months, I have had the privilege of working on the committee to organize the 5th annual NIH Career Symposium. Serving on the planning committee was a valuable experience, both personally and professionally. Below are some of the key things that I learned by volunteering as a committee member.

The importance of teamwork and time management.

It is crucial to communicate clearly with your team to avoid duplication of effort. My time management skills have improved, resulting in increased productivity. By learning to prioritize the issues at hand and work with a team, my life seems more manageable.

To practice leadership skills at all times.

You don’t have to be in a leadership position to build your leadership skills. Each one of us had the chance to take the lead on a certain issue and bring new ideas to the group.

To step out of my comfort zone.

Getting out of the lab, talking to other fellows, and doing a different kind of work helped me to discover skills I didn’t know I had. I learned that I could communicate my complex science in simple language. I also saw how skills that I had learned in the lab were applicable in other settings. These included planning a project, explaining it to the other key players, justifying the resources needed to complete the project, and communicating effectively with people of broad educational backgrounds.

How to build a network and witness why it is important.

You have heard it a million times, but networking is an important skill to develop. What is not always apparent is how easy it can be. Attending the Career Symposium social events was a great way to connect with the speakers and other attendees. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was there to network. I was able to see how we as a committee had used our network to make this event happen. The success of the Symposium relied on the ability of committee members and staff to identify potential speakers and invite them to come. Our networking skills helped us to put together dynamic and valuable panels.

The value of using social media effectively.

I have used LinkedIn more in the past few months than I did in the first six years after I signed up for it. I used it to advertise and start discussions around the information presented at the Career Symposium.

Giving back is highly rewarding.

Working on the committee to organize the NIH Career Symposium was also personally fulfilling. I have benefitted firsthand from a previous symposium, so by participating in this committee I hoped to help others find similar career guidance.

This post is based on content that was originally published on the OITE Career Blog, which is produced by the Office of Intramural Training and Education at the National Institutes of Health. It is reproduced with the kind permission of the author and the OITE Career Blog team. We hope that Ahmed’s compelling reasons to serve on a committee will help convince our readers to join a volunteer committee at OSA or another scientific organization.

Ahmed Kablan (qasemah@niddk.nih.gov) is a postdoc at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) in Bethesda, Md., U.S.A.

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