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Volunteering for an Interesting Life

By Larry R. White, CMA, CSCA, CFM, CPA, CGFM
October 1, 2019
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For as long as I can remember, I have volunteered. My first volunteer passion was the local YMCA, where, at age 7, I aspired to be a swim instructor. Then I was a lifeguard, president of the YMCA Leaders Club, the senior swim instructor, and, by age 17, swim team coach and lifeguard instructor. My successful early volunteerism guided me toward attaining certifications, expertise, and leadership skills.

 

The early part of your professional career can be hectic and confusing: working long hours, figuring out the path to success, studying for professional exams or advanced degrees, and perhaps starting a family. Volunteering seems like another line on your to-do list. But you’re building a portfolio of positive options for a successful career and life.

 

Taking part in IMA® creates complementary professional options: certification, new networks, new mentors, leadership skills, recognition of professional expertise, involvement with a wider range of finance and accounting professionals, and/or the opportunity to find your professional passion.

 

As your career advances, IMA provides strong validation of your expertise, leadership, and experience. Serving as a member or leader of an IMA committee or task force, being a speaker or coordinator for conferences, writing professional articles, and/or representing the management accounting profession in industry-wide discussions build your credibility, confidence, and breadth of experience. The ability to speak authoritatively about your profession’s future, impact, and what it can contribute promotes your position, credibility, and value within your organization.

 

Early in my career, I used professional credentials to differentiate myself. I was the second Coast Guard officer to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and the first to become a CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). My bosses didn’t understand what the certifications meant, but I kept them displayed prominently in my office, on business cards, in performance reviews, etc. I never missed an opportunity to explain the value of the CMA because it related most directly to my job.

 

I often requested training or conferences, explaining that I needed continuing professional education to keep the certifications and that I volunteered with the organization. The volunteer argument usually won approval. If not, I’d request leave to attend the event to show my commitment. I was seldom denied a second time.

 

Over the years, my engagement with the accounting profession became widely known in my organization, partly because of my promotional efforts and partly from external sources such as media scans, interviews, conference speaking events, articles, committee service, and networking. The result was that I achieved a standing in my organization (and outside job offers) that transcended my position.

 

Yes, I spent much time on IMA, but I couldn’t have achieved what I did without the benefits from volunteering. Even as I phase out of the workforce toward retirement, the interests IMA nurtured promise to keep me active. When you are passionate about what you’re doing, it’s a joy to contribute.

 

Larry R. White, CMA, CSCA, CFM, CPA, CGFM, is a former IMA Chair and current IMA member. He also is former Deputy CFO, U.S. Coast Guard (retired Captain), and is executive director, Resource Consumption Accounting Institute. You can reach him at lrwhitecma@hotmail.com.
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