Students. Faculty. Staff. No matter who you are or the title you hold, more likely than not you’ve volunteered for something on your campus at least once since you’ve started. It could be joining/starting a committee or chaperoning a trip for which the activities office can’t find coverage. Regardless of the size of the task, many of us feel the need to volunteer for many reasons. We are role models for our students, we want to do the “right” thing, it provides us a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment. There are a multitude of reasons we volunteer. Generally, it is something most are willing to do without much force or explanation.
Volunteering is, well, voluntary. The volunteer willingly chooses to partake in the activity or effort.
However I’ve begun to notice a new practice amongst student affairs practitioners that when I reflect on my young career, I realize is not so new after all. I call it being “voluntold.”
Voluntold is the subtle way our advisors, supervisors, colleagues, or students volunteer us without warning. Allow me to give an example of this practice.
Pro 1: “Hi everyone, so we are planning a conference and we need to spread out the responsibilities.”
Pro 2: “Great. I wouldn’t mind taking over the accounting for the conference.”
Pro 3: “Great idea! You can also present a session on budgeting and fiscal responsibility!”
Pro 1: “That would be so good.”
Pro 2: “Ok…”
Bam! If you are Pro 2, you were just voluntold. You weren’t quite told. You didn’t quite volunteer. However, you find yourself now in charge of the budget and constructing a presentation. Don’t fret; being voluntold is actually a positive gesture. Pro 2 may have never thought to present on the topic or had the courage to, but when voluntold Pro 2 feels empowered and gains a sense of value for being accounting guru. As a result, Pro 2 may recognize a new strength, skill, or passion that they weren’t aware of prior to being voluntold.
Here is another example. This time instead of during conversation, it takes place via e-mail:
To: Pro 4
From: Dean 1
I’ve appointed Director 2 to create a committee for next month’s Ice Cream Education Week. I believe your skills and knowledge with ice cream would be beneficial and helpful to Dean 2 on this new initiative.
Contact Director 2 for details.
- Dean 1
Voluntold! You didn’t volunteer for the committee. You weren’t specifically told to serve on the committee. Now you find yourself in the middle of a meeting discussing which would be most appealing in the dining hall – custard, gelato, or sorbet. One extra meeting to attend? Am I spending an hour every other week this semester talking about ice cream?? This should be seen as a form of flattery since Dean 1 saw a need with which your ability and passion align. Dean 1 is simply acting as a point guard on a basketball team; putting their teammates in the best position for the highest percentage shot.
These are examples played out within the professional realm but I suspect we do this to students all the time as well. Student Y is great at art, so we suggest that they participate on the branding committee by telling them the time and date of the meetings, and informing them that they will be contacted with location by the chair of the committee.
Being voluntold means a number of things – you are good at what you do and are being noticed for it, people recognize your passions and want to help you explore them, or people want to challenge your growth by putting you in a position to further your skills and experience.
In my career, both as student and as professional, I’ve been voluntold a number of times and more often than not it resulted in an experience to which I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed. I believe this is a great thing because sometimes you really want to volunteer but you might lack the courage, time, desire, or knowledge to raise your hand, reply to that email, or to step forward. For those of us who have their hands tied to their sides, their fingers frozen to the keyboard, or feet planted to the floor, being voluntold might be the only cure for such hesitance.
Can you identify a time you were voluntold or maybe you voluntold someone? Please share your story and/or your thoughts!