Researcher Visibility: Committees, societies, and organising conferences
Happy new year (well, in the Gregorian calendar)!
I hope you had a fantastic break and are starting 2021 re-energized.
As many of us have brilliant new years resolutions, I thought it's the right time to talk about starting new activities and being involved in committees, societies, and organising conferences.
Being actively involved in committees, societies, and organising conferences does not only look great on your CV for giving back to the community, but also allows you to expand your network and strengthen your skills. Being involved in these activities can help you make your voice heard and is crucial for representing different opinions, backgrounds, and experiences.
One way or another, being involved in these activities, you will learn invaluable lessons such as, (a) committees: teamwork, decision-making strategies, facilitation, finance; (b) societies: event management, networking, discussions, taking responsibility; (c) conference organization: project management, interactions with wider stakeholders, communication, problem solving.
Clearly, those skills are not restricted to either of these activities and the list is not exhaustive, but it gives you an idea about the transferable skills you can gain and strengthen by being involved in those activities.
Identifying your motivation(s) to identify the Why, the How, the What, and the Who
Why do you want to become involved? What is your motivation? What are driving factors for you to stay involved?
How do your skills fit into the wider vision (do you want to apply the ones you have, or develop new ones)? How will you get started, and how will you maintain momentum? How will your involvement impact your career projections, time management, and work-life balance?
What channels and resources will you use? What are your goals and how will you measure them? What are potential negative side-effects?
Who are the others involved? Who are the people you want to reach? Who are the stakeholders?
Time commitment, and saying the magical word "no"
Even though it is great to be involved in diverse types of committees, societies, events, and activities, it is important to look closely at the time commitment involved and not stretching one self to thin.
Saying the word "no" can sometimes be difficult and one can be easily trapped into saying yes. Saying "no" can save you and the others involved a lot of time and pain. "No" is not malicious, but an honest reflection of your availability or keenness to be involved.
I am here saying "keenness" instead of "willingness", because committee work usually needs more than someone just being named on the committee, but is hard work. I personally like to be fully involved in committee work and being "keen" on the vision and outcomes helps maintaining focus and energy.
In summary, being actively involved in committees, societies, and organising conferences looks great on your CV and you can learn invaluable lessons. However, consider carefully whether you have the time and "keenness" to be part of something, before you agree.