Last week Wendy brought up grappling with the “big” questions of career and purpose. Is evaluation the “right” fit? For me, it hasn’t been as straight forward of a path or decision. However, where the rubber meets the road in meaning for me as an evaluator is my capacity as an active community volunteer with an evaluation skill set.
In the past year, I have had an “ah-ha” moment. Rather than sticking with volunteer activities that are important passions of mine—mentoring at-risk youth and low-income housing—I’ve been able to help with broader and more evaluation-focused tasks, such as policy analysis, survey administration, and strategic planning.
Specifically, this month, I had the opportunity to help address some dire enrollment concerns for my daughters’ public school district. Enrollment is dropping drastically, even attracting national attention—not the kind a superintendent wants. A district with large budget concerns does not have the funds to hire a strategic researcher to collect data on why families are leaving and what it would take to get them back. I have been able to develop, collect, and analyze surveys for families that have “choiced” out. In the process, I have also been able to advise the district on some of their data collection and tracking processes.
While I don’t know if my pro-bono work will save the district, it feels good to know that I can do my part to volunteer as a parent. I can give back with skills I have and am comfortable and passionate about. Finding my “niche” as a volunteer has provided meaning in my volunteer commitments and professional life.
KELLEY’S USEFUL TIP: Whatever your career or passion, there is great fulfillment in finding a way to utilize your professional skills in a way that gives back to a cause that is important to you.