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stepping stoneJules is one of seven volunteer coordinators at a hospice that boasts over 1200 volunteers. She loves her job, loves the pairing of volunteers with patients and duties, and loves developing volunteer talent.
She’s excited to go to work each day and is sparked by researched ideas on recruiting volunteers. Like the best paper towel out there, she soaks up helpful information from her many sites on the internet.
So, what could possibly bother this exemplary coordinator? For the past few years, there has been turnover in the volunteer services department where she works. Coordinators have taken the job while seeking a better degree or while studying for certification in another field or while garnering experience to “move ahead.” As another volunteer coordinator, Nicole’s going away party wound down, Jules found herself chatting with a senior manager, who glibly stated, “Isn’t it great about Nicole completing her BSN? It’s so nice to see people advance.” Jules smiled but inside she felt a twinge of discontent. She thought back to how Nicole would study at times, would forget volunteers’ names and when it became apparent that she would be graduating, Nicole pretty much stopped assigning volunteers. That left Jules to answer volunteer’s questions, attend meetings and continue programs. At first she didn’t mind, because she liked Nicole, but Nicole was the fourth volunteer coordinator to step over everyone in the department to advance.

Jules sighed. “I wish I had said to the senior manager, ‘when all these people go to school to advance, that’s really great for them but that leaves me picking up their slack. Even when they are here physically, their minds are preoccupied with upcoming exams, or scary job interviews. Just because I chose to give my all to this job, does that make me any less a professional or capable of advancement? Is my area just a temporary one and because I love what I do, does that make me a dupe? Should I just get with the program and plan on using my time here to get somewhere else? Is volunteer management just a stepping stone?”
Jules started to rethink her choices. She felt she had found her calling, and she had some great ideas and plans for the future. But, she wondered, does everyone think of volunteer services as just an entry level job?
So, Jules had a heart to heart talk with the volunteer director, a woman she admired and hopes to one day replace. She voiced her concern that volunteer coordinators using the position to personally advance were not only hurting the department, but were also placing too much extra work on her as well. To her surprise and relief, the volunteer director had already noticed the trend. She promised to hold each coordinator accountable for their work load and promised to watch out for Jules’ enabling tendency. She wisely pointed out that Jules was the real leader of the team, the trainer, the inspirational guru and told Jules that upon retirement, she would insist Jules be made director.
The talk helped Jules to feel better. After all, the thrill of seeing a volunteer succeed under her guidance trumps title any day. But still, the image of a leaving coordinator getting feted for advancing haunts her just a little bit.
“I love this job.” She says firmly. “I just wish the worth of what I do would be recognized.”