Thursday, January 10, 2013

What do you do? I enable happiness!

Anyone who manages or coordinates volunteers will understand what I mean about the “Profession Conversation Stopper” It’s that conversation at a social event or around a barbeque where people ask you what you do for a living. Ive lost count of the blank looks, the befuddled facial expressions and the “right...Let’s quickly move on to the next question” look. Because let’s face it…ours is a profession that is still in 2013 pretty unknown and unheard of. Especially outside of our echo chambers.

It has rarely really bothered me. In fact sometimes I enjoy the reactions. In fact now I tend to have fun with it as in the following exchange which has actually occurred,

“So what do you do?”

“I manage Volunteer programs”

“That’s nice”….(moment of silence)..Do you get paid?”

“No…I have a money tree in my back yard and luckily that produces enough to pay my mortgage and the bills”

Blank look. Slight nervous giggle. Person moves away slowly and latches on to another!

Seriously though Ive often had a calm response and have taken the time to explain my occupation and people are amazed when you can articulate your role.

After all to’s a pretty amazing profession we are involved with. It is a profession that I am passionate about and I hope that passion comes across sometimes.

Have a think about the team and programs you manage. I do. Often. They have never failed to inspire me. To lift me. I see people each day making a real difference to others. I see people each day giving their time to bring a smile to others. I see people everyday offer shoulders to cry on, hands to hold, ears to listen and kind words to offer. Volunteers amaze me. When I observe them from a distance I am humbled by the experience. Truly. I see them bring joy, relief, comfort and happiness.

I am honored to do what I do. I pledge to do it to the best of my ability. And I take my profession seriously. And every year I grow and learn in my job.

The next time someone asks me what I do for a living I would love to say “I enable happiness” Would love to see the look then. I hope I am brave enough to say it someday.

I believe that at the end of the day your role enables some wonderful moments to happen. You bring it all together. And you can lead to inspire too.

May 2013 be great for your wonderful role and for you!


  1. It's quite surprising how many people, when I tell them I'm a 'volunteer manager', assume that means 'an unpaid manager.' They don't know that such a profession exists. I now tell them that I 'manage volunteer programs', which is much clearer, but like you said, many people still interpret that as 'unpaid'.

    1. Thanks Colleen. We shall continue to Educate Educate Educate! :-)

  2. I get this all the time! Mostly from nosy and obnoxious aunts and uncles. My favorite direct quote from an uncle: "Ugh. I don't envy you having to work with volunteers." I said: 'Seriously? I have the best job in the corporation (a hospital). My people are happy to come to work and I don't have to negotiate pay raises.' That shut him up.

    Happy new year to you, too DJ from Northern Minnesota.

    Kari Knudson

  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment Kari! Your uncle may have had a bad volunteer experience!! With volunteers! Keep the faith in the wonderful job you do!


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