Volunteer Checklist

I’ve noticed a hugely positive response when I recap my volunteer experiences to friends and family. Someone always comments "That's so cool that you get to be a part of that event!" This response always surprises me. I am always super excited to tell them how easy it is to get involved and how much fun it is to spend your free-time supporting something you're passionate about. My first word of advice to get involved is to find something you're passionate about, locate an organization that needs assistance, and contact them through their website / give them a call. It’s that simple.

I’ve volunteered for almost 8 years for special, sporting, and art events. Each event requires specific attire that will allow the volunteer to fit in and perform their tasks comfortably. Some events are formal while others require comfortable athletic attire for events outside.

Comfort is very important because of how active you will be. I’ve directed traffic, moved tables, decorated tents, hung signs and banners, handed out swag to crowds, and registered athletes for events....The list goes on and on. Volunteering means long periods of time on your feet and being outdoors.

The most important things besides knowing when and where you're volunteering is OUTFIT, SNACKS, and SUNSCREEN.

Depending on the amount of labor required for an event, sports sandals (that do not cause blistering) or tennis shoes are a great option. Flip Flops are not recommended since there is a constant need for mobility and usually quick getaways if someone needs something. 

Two pant options are: breathable athletic capris (not tight) or athletic shorts. Both are comfortable and allow you to move, bend, twist, and run as needed. Yoga pants are not recommended because they are too casual. Events bring in people from all walks of life, try to be as professional as possible in athletic clothing.

The event usually provides a t-shirt to wear. You should show up wearing an undershirt in case you need to make a quick change into the shirt-de-jour. A sports-bra is great for gigs that require running around. Plus, it’s a great place to keep a car key during the day if your athletic pants don’t have pockets.

I recommend pulling hair up under a baseball cap or trying a nice braid on the side to keep your hair out of your face.

It's not always easy to go back to the car for things. I usually only bring a small bag with the essentials. Plus, I  I never know if food will be provided. Water is almost always nearby but if your post is on one side of the event, you can expect to do a lot of running back and forth. Being in the sun and sweating makes it of the utmost importance to apply sunscreen and feel comfortable. To stay energized and hydrated I bring the following with me in a small bag:

  • Sunscreen stick (liquid sunscreen gets hot and can explode more easily)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Larabar (packed with protein, very filling)
  • Water bottle (chilled in the fridge the night before)
  • Face wipes to refresh during and after the event
  • Deodorant (I recommend wipes or spray since stick deodorant melts in the heat)
  • Camera / Phone (if you absolutely need it)
  • Business Cards (you will meet random and cool people)
  • Baseball Cap
  • A good attitude

Every volunteer experience is different but the most important thing to have (besides sunscreen) is a good attitude. Volunteering is hard work sometimes. People are unpredictable, the work is sometimes repetitive, at times boring, but overall it’s a group effort and most people want to facilitate a wonderful event / day!

Fear of the Dentist | Part 2

In my last post I described how anxious I was for my next dentist appointment. I knew he would be interested to hear about my experience at the USA Pro Challenge, it was his suggestion after all. I arrived to my appointment, checked in, and was taken to the exam room. I pulled out the “USA Pro Challenge” sticker I brought him and waited. I was so excited to say “Thank you so much for encouraging me to go to the race, it was so much fun” but I was also anxious that he would see my efforts as good enough or fruitful. I’ve described my quest to enter the world of cycling to him over the last three appointments. There was a lot of pressure to share great stories of how it’s all going. 

He came into the room and before I could say anything he said “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!!” And we jumped right in to all the fun details. I showed him all the photos of me meeting the cyclists and how I worked as crew and also VIP for two stages of the race. It was so great to connect with someone who knows about cycling since I’m still discovering it. He was so encouraging and understanding that I’m figuring things out but enjoying the process.

A lot of people have asked “What are you doing these days?” The basic answer is that I’m “changing career ladders” and describe my journey towards working in the cycling industry. As with my dentist their first question is usually “Do you cycle?” I always laugh and sheepishly reply… “Not really, I'm looking for a role supporting the team. I’ll leave the cycling to them.”

My dentist asked what the next step is for me. I explained that I am still building relationships in the industry and assessing available options. Now that the cycling season is coming to a break, I hope there will be more time for me to chat with organizers about joining their team. The great news is that my interest and motivation hasn’t wavered.

I’m relieved to have made my dentist, a.k.a. career counselor, proud. And in other news, I’m now cavity free! 

Fear of the Dentist | Part 1

Fear of visiting the dentist? Yes, but it’s not what you think. As an adult I find enjoyment having my teeth worked on. I like to test my relaxation skills to see how calm I can get with the commotion happening in my face. My fear is a unique and probably laughable one when it comes to a dentist visit…. He’s going to ask me about my progress and efforts to break into the world of cycling.

I graduated college in May, knowing my job would end in June, and decided “now is a great time to pay hundreds of dollars in dental bills” because, like most people, I had dental work that was overdue.

My first of three appointments this summer started with the usual “How’s life? What are you up to these days?” This was the beginning of my shift in career ladders and I was moving towards the cycling industry. My response was an unsure “Well, I’m going to take a couple months off to figure some things out. I’m looking for something that will allow me to travel, perhaps something in the cycling industry.”

As I casually mentioned my goal to him his whole demeanor changed. He asked “Do you cycle?” and after laughing at my response of “No, I don’t actually cycle,” he spent the entire appointment mapping out ideas for my future. He got off track a few times, suggesting I work with the rodeo, or interview campers at Yellowstone. But it was great to hear more about his recommendations for companies I needed to research, and the events I needed to attend. The main goal: “You have to go to the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.”

I took his advice because, well, he has sharp objects drilling into my teeth, but also because he has a passion for cycling. It developed when he was a young runner who moved into triathlons. Now his whole family enjoys following the tour and other races.

With each appointment I feel the need to bring something to the table because I know he will ask me the tough questions. He's literally said "You better have a good story for us next time you come in." He scrutinizes my methods of networking and my efforts to break into the industry, rolling his eyes at my All-Star status on LinkedIn. He’s not impressed. I’ve appointed him as my honorary career counselor and I want to make him proud. Plus, I need a job to pay for all my dental work! (Luckily after my next appointment I will be cavity free.)

I am nervous and excited to tell him “I MADE IT TO THE USA PRO CHALLENGE IN COLORADO!” I hope he will be proud but I assume he will not be impressed since I did not leave the race with a job offer. To avoid the disappointed look I plan to distract him with a sticker I brought back from the race. He probably won’t fall for it but it’s worth a try. 

UPDATE: Read Part 2 here.

2015 USA Pro Challenge | Stage 6

2015 USA Pro Challenge | Stage 6
August 22, 2015
Ft. Collins, Colorado