What’s In It for Me?

by Russ Westcott

If you’re reading Quality Progress, you are most likely a member of ASQ. If you attend your local section’s meetings, you no doubt constantly hear about the need for volunteers to help with the section’s activities. In fact, you probably have become numbed by the continual pleas—ad nauseam it seems—for help.

This short article approaches volunteering from a different perspective. Instead of talking about your sacrifice of time and energy, I’ll focus on WIIFM or what’s in it for me.

Expanding on the WIIFM concept:

  • What—I’m focusing on what volunteering for ASQ can do for your personal growth and professional development.
  • In—You’re already in the largest and most prestigious quality professional society in the world. How can you use your membership for the mutual advantage of yourself and your colleagues?
  • It—ASQ provides myriad opportunities for you to gain staff and managerial competence at very little risk. It offers a vast array of activities and roles in which you can attain knowledge, experience and skills, improve your attitude and apply your aptitude to new challenges.
  • For me—While you are contributing to your professional society and serving your fellow professionals, you stand to gain as much or more than those you serve.

Why You Hesitate

Let’s deal with your objections up front. You don’t volunteer now because:

  • You have conflicting commitments, such as family needs, school attendance, involvement with other organizations and other activities or work demands.
  • You’re being responsive to spousal wishes or demands.
  • You think you don’t have time.
  • You think you don’t have enough energy.
  • You’re afraid of exposing any inadequacies or of being criticized.
  • You’re afraid to speak to a group or be in the spotlight.
  • You believe you don’t have anything to contribute.
  • You’re not interested.

With the possible exception of the first two objections, you’re likely just avoiding volunteering and hiding from the duty to yourself to grow and develop professionally. If for no other reason, you need to provide economic stability for yourself and those who depend on you.

Lee Iacocca made famous the phrase, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” The U.S. Army made popular another phrase, “Be all that you can be.” These are more than catchy phrases. They are truly pertinent to those of us in a profession that is rapidly evolving and leaving many of you out in the cold.

Let me suggest a different kind of strategy in addressing why you should volunteer—one that could work for you.

Your ASQ section makes known its need for certain types of tasks to be done. Often these needs are for chairing a committee. The core competencies of the job to be filled and the time commitment usually are not specified.

Taking on the responsibility appears overwhelming—just too much for you to consider. With that feeling and one or more of your excuses, you don’t apply.

Instead, take a look at your present “real” job and write down the knowledge, experience, skills, attitude and aptitude you need to keep it and get a raise. Do the same for the next higher job position you might aspire to. These two lists comprise your want list.

Go shopping with your want list. Research the needs of your section. If they are following ASQ’s section management process guidelines, they will have a business plan and strategic objectives. Seek out tasks and roles that could help you fulfill your want list. Pursue the section’s needs with section leaders to gain more insight into what would be involved if you were to volunteer.

Prepare a proposal to the appropriate section leader detailing what you can bring to the task or role and what you expect the section will gain from your involvement. State your personal objectives (what you will learn and experience you will gain) and your time commitment should you accept the responsibility. Add what support you expect, such as training, coaching, expense reimbursement and recognition.

Chances are that with this businesslike approach and clear delineation of your “gives” and “takes,” you’ll get the assignment that matches your wants.


Examples of the advantages of volunteering are:

  • You get to build specific knowledge, experience and skills that will enhance your real work opportunities, now and in the future.
  • You get to try out new ideas and new approaches without financial risk.
  • You practice your people skills in getting things done when you’re not in charge.
  • You meet people who can guide and coach you in your professional development.
  • You can experience what it’s like to manage a project.
  • You practice your communication skills through speaking, writing and listening.
  • You can practice and observe various leadership skills in a variety of situations.
  • You learn how to set clear objectives and sell your services.
  • You become a more rounded professional.
  • You have pertinent entries for your résumé.
  • You develop confidence to volunteer outside your section—to an ASQ division or special interest group or a headquarters sponsored activity.

In addition to all that, volunteering for ASQ can be fun.

This has not been the usual pitch to seek volunteers. It is a pitch to you to wake up to the benefits you can gain from proactive volunteering. Your section gains from your involvement, and you answer the question, what’s in it for me?

RUSSELL T. WESTCOTT is president of the Offerjost-Westcott Group, a division of R.T. Westcott & Associates, in Old Saybrook, CT, that specializes in providing work life planning, guidance and coaching. He co-edited The Certified Quality Manager Handbook, second edition, the Certified Quality Manager Section Refresher Training Course and The Quality Improvement Handbook and wrote Stepping Up to ISO 9004:2000. Westcott is an ASQ Fellow, certified quality auditor and certified quality manager. He serves on the Thames Valley Section’s executive board as newsletter editor and job leads chair, on two Quality Management Division committees and on a subcommittee of the product support initiative for ISO 9004:2000.

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