Last Friday I had the privilege to volunteer and help with two graduation ceremonies at Flinders University. I’ve been to three graduation ceremonies, as a graduand, this was the first time I was at a graduation ceremony as a staff member.
As someone with an introverted personality, I tend to avoid social situations, especially those with large crowds. I’m terrible at small talk and chit chat. I have no idea what to say.
However when the invitation to volunteer to help at the graduation ceremonies came out I jumped at the chance. This is because I’ve realised that I’m at a point in my career where I need to grow my professional network. I felt that volunteering would be a small, but significant step towards this goal.
I’m so glad that I got over my trepidation that morning and went up to the registration desk for the first ceremony of the day. There were so many happy, excited and nervous people. Young and old, from all walks of life. I couldn’t help but be swept up in the excitement.
Working on the registration desk is a critical part of the preparation of the ceremony. This is because we check off the graduands who have arrived for the ceremony and give them their seat numbers. It is critical that they sit in their allocated seat, so that they are in the right order for when their name is called to cross the stage and receive their parchment.
Having graduands out of order is a nightmare scenario. It would be embarrassing for us, the graduand, and the academics on stage. We take many precautions to ensure this doesn’t happen, and it starts with the registration desk.
It’s critical to be accurate and make sure the graduands know how important it is. I keenly felt the pressure to be accurate, and yet fast, to ensure everyone could register in a timely fashion.
The time flew by and there were many happy people. It took the pressure off, and it was with a sense of accomplishment that I crossed off the last name and handed over the last seat number sticker.
For the second ceremony I was stationed out the front of the registration tent. I had to ask each graduand which degree they were graduating from that day, to ensure they went to the right registration desk. I believe I spoke to more people that day than I have in months.
It was exhilarating to help people get to the right registration desk, answer questions, and generally try to be as useful as possible. One of the many highlights was helping a family by taking some photos of their group, making sure they could all be in the photo together. They all had smiles on their faces, and I couldn’t help but smile back.
Reflecting on my experiences over the weekend , I became convinced that sometimes it is good to get out of my shell and experience new things. It also gave me an appreciation for what my friend Mark Drechsler went through at the start of semester at Flinders Connect. I had to interact with lots of people for one day, and it left me exhausted. I have no idea how he did it at the start of semester with many more people each day for two whole weeks.
This is a long way of saying that volunteering not only helped the graduations team, it was a growth opportunity for me. I look forward volunteering again next time.