Transformation through volunteering: Experiential learning

How experiential learning through volunteerism can help to transform the women leaders who will transform the futureJaime

At the 2015 Woman of the Year (WOTY) celebration, an eight-month-pregnant and nervous Jaime Marks Corvino, HBA global committee chair of flagship events, stood before an audience of 2,000 healthcare leaders and peers talking about the importance of her volunteer experience. It was the first time she’d given a speech to such a large crowd.

“I thought to myself, what am I doing up here? This is crazy,” Marks Corvino recalls. Then, as she stepped off the stage, woman from the audience began to approach her. “They were saying, ‘Thank you so much for doing that. You made me realize that, even as a mom with young kids, I should still be taking on volunteer roles and other development opportunities, and it’s important for me to not feel like I can’t just because I’m at this stage of my life,’” she explains. “And that made me realize that I can inspire other people and really have an impact even while I’m still figuring things out in my own career.” The experiences she has had during her volunteer tenure with the HBA, from public speaking to presenting to the board, have also helped her to push her limits and boundaries and discover just how much she is capable of—both personally and professionally.

This, she says, is what makes volunteering uniquely suited to experiential learning. “In volunteer organizations, there’s always a need for people to roll up their sleeves and get deeply involved. And that’s when you get the greatest benefit of that experiential learning.”

For Marks Corvino, associate director of account management at KPMG, volunteering offers an environment in which to:

  • Observe: “As a global chairperson, I’m in the thick of things at the HBA. I get to observe different communication and management styles and see how these approaches play out in ways I haven’t yet seen in my professional job.”
  • Engage: “I’m working alongside senior-level professionals to whom I would not normally have exposure. I’m building a diverse network of leaders from different healthcare sectors who I can call upon when I need advice or mentorship.”
  • Experiment: “I’m in an environment where it’s safe to take risks within a network of women who are giving feedback and working through issues together. Whereas in your professional job, you may feel like you have to be able to do everything, here, you can say, ‘No, I’ve not done that, but I’d love to take it on if you can help me along the way.’”

As the healthcare landscape continues to transform, the demand for experienced, connected and innovative leaders will only continue to grow. And as leaders work to transform themselves to meet this demand, volunteering can be the key—especially for women. “There is research that shows that men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women will apply only if they meet 100% of them,” explains Marks Corvino. “And I think it comes down to the fact that when women feel more confident about something, they’re much more likely to go for it.” She advises women to use volunteerism through the HBA to build their leadership qualifications—and their confidence—in the areas where they need it most. “For me, I did not feel confident about speaking in front of 2,000 people,” she concludes. “But, the HBA team encouraged me to get up there, and now, if I were ever up for a role that required public speaking, I now feel confident that I could do it.”

3 ways to gain more from volunteering
—from Jaime Marks Corvino, HBA global committee chair of flagship events

1.     Go all in: Volunteering can be difficult, especially for women trying to balance the demands of work and life, such as those in the thick of parenting young children while working full time. But if you’re going to do it, find the time to dive deep. The benefits of experiential learning are far richer when you’re fully invested.

2.     Be strategic: The substantial time commitment of volunteering should not be taken lightly. Use your time wisely by mapping out how volunteering can fit your needs to ensure you’re realizing value for the time you spend.

3.     Put it in your development plan: Get buy-in from your professional job by integrating volunteering into your development goals. This will help to ensure that you don’t have to do all of your volunteering in your “spare” time, and will help you stay committed to and accountable for your volunteer responsibilities.