Spring is coming, believe it or not, and nominations committees are currently canvassing our membership, looking for people to run in the spring elections. Sadly, most of the people they ask will follow Nancy Reagan’s instructions to the letter: they’ll just say no.
Friends, service work for AIC is not a highly-addictive drug that will destroy your life. Consider saying yes. Everyone seems to focus on how much extra work is involved in service. It’s true: service positions do involve work. Also true: most don’t involve that much work. And nobody ever talks about the fact that this work is often very interesting, that you might actually like it.
For example, as a member of the Education and Training Committee, I review scholarship and workshop applications from our entire membership. As a result, I get a broad overview of what people in all sub-disciplines are doing and it’s fascinating. The ETC also gives me the opportunity to work on bigger issues in our field, and in doing so I get to collaborate with conservators who have completely different experience and perspectives.
I’m also currently the program chair for the Objects Specialty Group. This isn’t the first time I’ve chaired conference sessions and I’m going to tell you a secret: it’s crazy easy and highly rewarding. Do I occasionally devote nights or weekends to reading abstracts, papers, and corresponding with authors? Yes. Is it interesting and worthwhile? Also yes. There is no better way to hear talks you want to hear than to chair a session and choose them yourself. This year for OSG, we had over 70 abstract submissions and not a single one of them was bad. With room for only 18 papers, the review committee had to make difficult decisions. As depressing as it is to reject 50+ good talks, think about the flip side: from 100% inspiring, solid submissions we were able to choose the papers we thought had the most to offer. As program chair, I was also able to plan a cocktail party for our group.
Admittedly, there are truly bad times to take on service responsibilities. Maybe you have a new baby, or a new job, or someone in your family is very sick. But if you’re simply waiting for the right time, the good time, then stop. It’s not coming. Two years from now you will not be lying on the couch eating bonbons and thinking, “hmm….I have so much leisure time….now might be a good time to do some service for AIC.” We’re all busy. I work a 55-60 hour a week job and, like all of us, have a life outside of work/conservation. But I make time for service.
There are a lot of reasons to say yes to service work: you’re interested in a particular initiative, you want to give back, you want to be in a position to effect change. I do it because I like it. Think about it. You might like it, too.