Karen Bailey MAAT, Chair of the AAT Cheshire & Staffordshire Branch talks about how five years of volunteering in her local branch has made her a better accountant.
Publicity officer, deputy chair, chair, event organiser, promoter – these are words that describe the life of an AAT committee volunteer and words that I have become more familiar with over the past five years. You name it, I’ve done it. I’ve been an AAT member for three years and became a branch volunteer well before – which shows you can become involved at any stage of your AAT journey.
In that time, I’ve been involved in some interesting projects and met some amazing people. As a result, I am a better accountant and employee as the skills I’ve gained have made me more adaptable in my role. Attending my first branch meeting was a nerve-wracking experience. I didn’t know what to expect and was worried I wouldn’t fit in.
The local AAT branch helped me through my first two years of home study as I was able to talk to others who were in the same situation or who had made positive and successful career moves. I was also pleased to see that there was no expectation to commit hours, days or weekends to the branch. The amount of time I spent was ultimately up to me and generally I contribute about two to three hours a week. I would definitely call myself a keen branch member.
It was easy to become involved in volunteering as the existing branch members were a group of people who were friendly, enthusiastic and genuinely wanted to help people reach their goals. It’s fair to say their positivity rubbed off on me. They were open to new ideas and they listened to what others had to say.
Since then, I have been involved in everything from promotions to administration. More specifically, I have:
- visited colleges
- liaised with local recruitment agencies
- networked with other professional bodies
- arranged the CPD event programme (seven events per year plus college visits)
- monitored and driving social media activity
- written newsletters
- mentored other AAT members
As a representative of my local branch, I felt I needed to experience what it fully means to be an AAT member. To do this, I have pushed myself to enter the annual CPD competition for the past three years (reaching the final interview stage on all occasions), researched the website, and made proactive contributions to the online forums. All of this has helped me in holding the post of Branch Chair… and I’m still learning.
So how has my volunteer work helped me with my everyday job? I’ve never been pigeon holed as a true accountant – this is because my roles have always been quite varied. Working at Waddington Cartonmaster, then ElectroCraft, my roles have included tasks such as:
- supervising reception
- implementing internal controls and procedures
- carrying out internal audits
- stock control and document control
- preparing engineering build documentation
- project management
- health and safety implementation
- liaising with customers and suppliers
- playing a lead role in streamlining the manufacturing processes within the production department
I have always liked to see the full business picture. To me, accounts were the last piece of the puzzle and it enabled me to understand business as a whole. I am now the Management Accountant at Hippowash in Crewe. Our company provides proactive solutions to road contamination problems for the quarry, waste management and construction industries.
My involvement across a broad range of AAT branch activities along with my work history has complimented my current role which isn’t just restricted to accounts. In addition, Hippowash Ltd has also become an AAT accredited employer – an indication of my AAT influence.
The branch network has also led me in the direction of mentoring and coaching which is an added bonus for me. By attending the branch meetings, I gain further CPD which keeps me updated so I can carry out my job to the best of my ability. I always use the motto ‘If I don’t know, I will find out’. I think I’m a researcher at heart.
My experiences have armed me with knowledge and a positive attitude to apply in all areas of my life. It has enabled me to grow in confidence, gain more skills, meet like-minded people and nurture my interest in mentoring and helping others.
When I was in my teens, I was told that volunteering was for the elderly or retired and young people were to focus on finding paid work. I now know this isn’t true and see volunteering as a way of obtaining the skills and experience that can help you find your dream job. In a nutshell, my top three reasons for volunteering are to:
- build your skills and CV through CPD
- network and build your connections
- develop your confidence
It may sound cliché, but volunteering has been my way of giving back to the community. It’s not only a great way to meet new people and maintain a positive work-life balance, but I feel as though I am making a difference in the process.