It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since I finished my fellowship and started a career as a Clinical Chemistry Director. Reflecting on the last three years I can confide that it has been a wild ride defined by steep learning curves punctuated with many gratifying “aha” moments along the way. And the most challenging and exciting part is that it still feels like this every day!
One of the most rewarding activities I have been a part of is not directly related to my job per se, but to the ability to serve at different levels within the AACC, our influential and beneficial professional society. Since I began my training I was always interested in being involved. It all came as a natural curiosity perhaps triggered by the involvement of my mentors and exposure to countless learning and networking opportunities at the first annual meeting I attended (2008, Washington, DC).
There is much to learn about our profession and many ways to get involved and contribute. My advice is to start small within your local or regional division, section or association. Pick a role that allows you to be engaged, to contribute, and to learn from colleagues, that is related to your professional interests, and that allows you to start understanding the inner workings of the organization. Most local sections and associations have calls for nominations where you can put your name forward, or let your colleagues and/or mentors know that you are interested in being nominated. Also, if you have colleagues and/or mentors that volunteer, you can make them aware of your interest in serving. Other venues to display interest are local meetings or continuing education events where you can interact with officers and learn more about the different roles in the organization. I guarantee that your willingness to be involved will not be ignored. Use your first “entry level” role as a sample to gauge the time commitment and to evaluate if this is something you would like to continue to do, or if you would like to re-visit your involvement at a later time.
As you develop experience and become more acquainted and comfortable, and your work becomes noticed, more opportunities to participate at different levels will present. It is essential to balance your involvement and not feel that you should take every opportunity that comes your way. A good piece of advice is that you need to make sure you are fully engaged in your commitments and make meaningful contributions in every role. Sometimes less is more and as a young laboratorian there will be plenty of time in your career to grow within the organization and participate at all levels.
In my personal experience, my involvement across different committees within AACC has been incredibly rewarding and I strive to represent and advocate for the laboratory community and our mission/vision to the best of my ability. In turn, my involvement has allowed me to develop a solid network of colleagues, has exponentially augmented my intellectual “net worth” and my ability to expand my knowledge, and has allowed me to become a more valuable resource within my institution. I sincerely hope I have encouraged you to take the next step to get involved and participate with the professional organization or association of your choice. These organizations would not exist without the support and involvement of their members.