Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Joining, working on and leading a committee – 10: joining an established committee 1

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 31, 2012

This is my tenth installment in a series on committees, and on joining, working on and leading them (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 206-214 for parts 1-9.) I began this series by outlining what a committee is, or at least what it should be as a matter of best practices (see Part 1) and I have continued from there to discuss making committees succeed, beginning with bringing in the right people but also including working with non-committee stakeholders and securing buy-in. I will be adding more on those general issues to flesh them out more thoroughly but with this posting, I discuss some of the issues of joining an already ongoing committee. And I begin that from the perspective of the potential committee member, and with the committee type distinctions of Part 1 in mind.

If you are invited (or ordered) to join a committee that is already in place, your first obligation is to bring yourself up to speed for contributing to its efforts. And this means your carrying through on a range of tasks.

• Is this a time-limited committee that is set to expire as the need it addresses passes a deadline date of some sort, or is this a standing committee that will simply continue long-term? You should understand the difference, and the time and effort difference that this would mean for you. And you need to develop buy-in support for your working on this committee from your manager and with their knowing up-front if you are only going to be working on this short-term, or as an ongoing part of your job.
• Does this committee have a clearly defined and adhered to charter, or to use the terminology I offered in Part 1 is this a zombie committee that is just there because it is there? If you are told you have to serve on a committee you very well may have to do so and even if it is primarily just there as a committee because there has always been an X committee. So this understanding on your part may not affect your joining or not, but you should understand what you are getting into.
• Assuming this committee has a charter, what is it and has it changed or evolved? If so, how? Learn what the committee seeks to accomplish and what it has done towards that perhaps time limited, perhaps open-ended goal.
• What would/will your role be in this and what are you expected to do for this committee?
• What is your timeline for doing this work and what is your time commitment schedule going to be like? That means committee meetings and when they are scheduled, but it also includes work you will do outside of those meetings but in support of this committee as you contribute to its overall effort.

The basic idea here can be summarized in a single, overarching bullet point:

• What are you getting into and what are you expected to contribute once you are there on the committee?

I will add to complete this list:

• Find out who you should meet with to get up to speed on this committee, its politics and its work so you can start effectively contributing as quickly as possible.
• And learn about and get access to any online or other networked information and documentation resources that the committee uses that you need to use too.

I am going to discuss the issues of new members joining an established committee as from the perspective of the committee chair in my next series installment.

You can find this posting and others of this series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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