A Volunteer Story – Linda Semmel

Recently, we sat down with Linda Semmel, administrative secretary for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and active volunteer for the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) since 2002. 

I wish more people could see the benefits of membership. And not just for us as the individual, but forcorporations who can also benefit in having memberships whether it’s for the educational opportunities for their employees, or for discounts to conferences. It’s just a great way to build the community up.

Like many of our volunteers, Linda became aware of her association after a friend invited her to attend a meeting. She was so taken that she signed up for membership that evening. Less than a year later, looking to become more involved and as a way to stay motivated, Linda responded to a call for volunteers by joining the membership committee. For her, this was the best opportunity to meet other members while learning more about IAAP. Linda hasn’t looked back once. 

Today, she is proud to be a chartered member of two chapters: the Black-Eyed Susan Chapter chartered in 2002, and the Wye Oak Chapter chartered in 2005. During her time with Black-Eyed Susan, she served as membership chair, treasurer, and friendship chair. Her service with the Wye Oak Chapter includes president (2005- 2011) and current treasurer. Regionally, Linda is the DE-MD-DC Division Administrative Professionals Week chair (2011-2012).  

When asked what she feels is the greatest benefit from membership, Linda doesn’t hesitate one bit: “Hands down—the interaction with other admins is really key.” And not just on the local level, she adds. The IAAP’s web community is a vibrant place where admins from all over the country and the world can join discussions ranging from technology and work place issues to advice on planning meetings and making travel arrangements. And it’s wonderful, Linda says, adding that regardless of the time or day, she can get answers to any questions she may have.

For educational and professional development, Linda finds the national and regional conferences as well as chapter meetings offer ample opportunity to boost her skills in a variety of areas. As a volunteer, Linda’s positions, especially as president, have really helped to build her self-esteem and confidence by honing specific skills such as public speaking and presenting. She has also learned a great deal about the business side of associations including the particulars of bylaws and charters. Finally, she gains satisfaction with philanthrophic volunteer opportunities through IAAP, such as manning the phones for a MPT fundraiser. All this has enhanced skills that she can use in both her professional and personal lives.

Outside of IAAP, Linda volunteers for the Columbia Brunswick Youth Bowling League. Involved since 1998, she started out as treasurer before taking her current position as coach in the 3-9 yr old league. She has also been secretary for her bowling league for the last 5 yrs.

As a champion of professional membership, Linda believes that you should be an active participant in your association regardless of time constraints. And there are many ways to do this. Attend as many meetings as possible, even if it’s not through your chapter. If you do attend a meeting outside your chapter, take what you’ve learned and bring it back with you. Never be afraid to make suggestions that you think will help better your chapter and your organization. Also be sure to look at your own skills to see what you can offer, and be willing to step up whether it’s for just one event or task, or on a larger scale, such as serving on a committee or the board.

Finally, Linda offers this piece of advice to anyone considering volunteering: “Keep it real. Be honest with yourself. Don’t volunteer for anything you physically can’t do or are not up to doing. Start small. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if it’s something that you’re really interested in learning more about.” 

After all, you never know where it will take you.

Do you have a story to share? Contact me at cblattau@marinermanagement.