This article was written by Olga Mack, originally published on Above the Law.
From women to scientists to millennials(and professionals who are all three!), more and more groups are getting involved in government. Although not everyone is eager to run for office, there is another way to get involved that is less intensive, but just as important: government board service.
No matter what field or career stage you are in, you will find opportunities to serve on international, federal, state, county, and local boards, task forces, and commissions. These boards, task forces, and commissions generally serve one or more of the following three key functions: managing, advisory, and regulatory. Sometimes, they hear appeals, provide expertise, advocate, receive public concerns, or establish, review, and enforce policies and regulations. While these organizations vary in size and complexity, they are generally designed to help shape and influence critical government decisions and services. As a result, board and commission members must have experience, dedication, and commitment to service.
Could government board service be right for you? Of course, your primary reasons to serve on a government board, task force, or commission should be interest in the subject matter, a desire to serve, and eagerness to influence policy and practices in the right direction. However, there are other benefits worth considering:
Increased Professional Visibility
Government service often garners public visibility. Government board positions may also provide recognition for outstanding performance on the job. For example it is not unusual for an individual’s positive media or public record to be reflected in the various boards, task forces and commissions they are asked to serve. These opportunities may be key factors for attracting job, leadership, corporate board service, and numerous other opportunities.
Learn New Substantive Skills
Many boards, task forces, and commissions touch substantive areas of law, business, and community. For example, if you serve on a transportation-related board, you will most likely learn a lot about vehicles, public transportation, related regulations, and community reactions to various proposals. Government board service presents a great way to learn and establish expertise that may be instrumental to leadership opportunities and board positions in related fields. Moreover, boards, task forces, and commissions present great opportunities to network with professionals in the field, which again may be helpful in the future leadership and board opportunities.
Increased Responsibilities Including Leadership, Budget, and Management Skills
Overseeing these agencies and projects can provide opportunities for growth and responsibility that are greater or different in scope than those presented in your “day job.” Many local, state, national, and international legislative bodies, commissions, and cabinet posts oversee projects and agencies of significant size in terms of budget, personnel, influence, and constituency. Therefore, serving on a government board can give you the opportunity to exercise significant leadership, manage multiple-dollar budgets, and oversee more personnel. Gaining clearly demonstrated, public experience with increased responsibility can be valuable in your future career goals. Government board service is an excellent way to prepare yourself for leadership or board service.
Build a Reputation of Integrity and Ethics
Although members of government boards, task forces, and commissions are not responsible to shareholders, they are accountable to those put them in power — either through appointments or the ballot box. This sensitivity and accountability is important training for future career and board opportunities. Professionals who serve on government boards, task forces, and commissions must constantly demonstrate their judgment, ethics, trustworthiness, credibility, and value. These are also important considerations for leadership and corporate board of directors candidates.
Overall, you should not seek a position on a government board, task force, or commission if you are not truly passionate about helping your community or substantive subject area that it covers. Because these opportunities affect the public, it is important to ensure that you are prepared for the extensive time and energy commitment. However, if you are certain that you can effectively serve your community through government board service, considering these four key benefits can help you choose the opportunity that is right for you.