David Coles, LSE Volunteer Centre Manager, shares what he learnt through chairing the London Student Volunteering Network over the past two years.
With my last meeting as the London Chair for the Student Volunteering Network coming up it seems like a good time to reflect on how I’ve found the role and, hopefully, share some insight with new chairs or potential ones. Here are my top five learnings from just over two years in the role.
1. It wasn’t *that* scary
I don’t normally get nervous when speaking publically but I have to admit that I had a few butterflies when it came to chair my first meeting. Our previous chair, Oli, had done a brilliant job and I wanted to continue in his footsteps of supporting colleagues, sharing best practice, creating a welcoming atmosphere and hopefully showing some leadership. Luckily when I saw everyone was enjoying the biscuits I had brought to the meeting (tip: always feed student volunteer coordinators) and they were chatting away as normal I knew it couldn’t go too badly wrong. I was also a bit nervous that I was taking on a huge amount of work but I needn’t have worried as it really isn’t that much.
2. Our colleagues are some of the friendliest people
I’m sure many people say this about their colleagues but those that work in the student volunteering sector really are some of the kindest and friendliest people! I only ever received support, thanks and encouragement from those in the London network, which makes the role much more rewarding. The same goes for everyone on the national committee who put in so much effort to make the network a success. I worked closely with Network Development Officers who offer a lot of advice and guidance about how to make a region work successfully.
3. It was an incredible opportunity to learn from the best
One of the things I enjoyed the most was gaining a really good insight in to how other university volunteer centres work and what lessons I could take back to LSE to improve the work that we do. From tips on running one-off opportunities to best practice for working with charities, everyone in the network had something to offer. The great thing about our sector is that people are happy to share best practice to ensure that all students have a great volunteering experience.
4. It looks pretty swish on my CV
Although this wasn’t my main motivator it has been a great benefit. I don’t intend to leave LSE any time soon but when it does come to write cover letters and sit down in an interview I’m going to have loads of examples surrounding team work, knowledge, communication and leadership that I can highlight.
5. I think I made an impact
This isn’t really for me to say but it felt like I made a difference doing this role. Whether it was bringing new ideas to our regional meetings, representing the network when meeting with charities or other bodies in the sector or just sitting down with a coffee for a new person who has joined a team in London and answering any questions they might have had.
So there are my top five learnings. I hope they inspire you to think about running to be a regional chair or vice-chair. I can’t wait to see who the new Chair of the London region is. I know they’ll have some great ideas and I look forward to continue being part of this incredible network.