Working in the public service setting can make it difficult to find ways outside of work to connect and be involved with the community. As recreation providers, we are often in the midst of community events and programs, which can make it feel like we are extremely tied into all the happenings within our towns and cities, despite a whole new world of areas to explore outside of the circles we frequent.
Luckily, I find myself involved with many community projects within the scope of my job as a Recreation Program Supervisor in Henderson County, which is exciting but comes with a few downsides. As I’m sure many of you can relate, the demands on our time and energy in public service sometimes leave us without the time or energy to be involved in the community outside of work hours. Those very unique work hours we keep (“we work when you play!”) can conflict with projects that we would otherwise eagerly jump into.
As I’ve found my rhythm and groove in my position and settled into the demands on my time, there are a few ways I’ve found to be more involved within my community, network, and reach beyond the sometimes seemingly all-encompassing world of public recreation:
- Local leadership course: Here in Henderson County there is a program called Vision Henderson County that exposes participants to the history, culture, commerce, and general make-up of the area. From visiting the local history museum and hearing stories of Main Street fires to touring an innovative plant grafting facility, I’ve learned more about my community in the past 9 months than in all the years spent growing up here. Plus I’ve met a lot of really interesting people and developed relationships with other professionals from a wide range of sectors.
- Find your local young professionals meet-up: It can be a little intimating going to a new meet-up group but with the support of a friend or co-worker it’s easy to jump in! These events are usually designed to be low stress, fun, and informative, plus many offer an opportunity to plug what you do and any upcoming fun your department has planned.
- See what local committees have vacancies: Is there a wellness committee or walk/bike planning committee that you could serve on? Perhaps there are ways to integrate recreation resources and support, and it provides an avenue to reach out to other departments. For example, our department has representation in our local healthy living committee, juvenile crime prevention council, and Special Needs Olympics committee.
- Check the local college for seminars or special conferences: Many community colleges or universities offer continuing professional development or small business support. It can be easy to overlook these resources since public government is run much differently, but they usually offer courses on social media, marketing on a budget, leadership development courses, and more. Plus it provides another opportunity to connect with local business owners and expand who you know!
- Keep an eye out for work trainings or seminars through other departments such as Human Resources, the library, or the health department. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to what you are doing now, it may in the future, or may help you get a bigger picture of your community.
- Connect with the local Chamber of Commerce for after work events, networking, and professional support groups. They can also make great partners for future programs!
- Check out the local Tourism Development Authority. Our TDA hosts Tourism After 5 each month at different locations around the county that are always fun, interesting, and help you explore where you live.
- Finally, always make time for fun! Join a local recreation club, sport league, or team. Make sure to keep fueling your energy, interests, and passions outside of work hours!
There are so many different ways to learn about where you live, work, and play. Don’t try to do it all at once, but keep an eye out for new ways to connect and be involved outside of your official position in your city or county, and who knows who you’ll meet or what you’ll find!
Meet the Author
Laura Rice works for Henderson County Parks & Recreation Department as a Recreation Program Supervisor overseeing the Recreation Youth Soccer Program. After spending high school working as a soccer referee she found her calling in public recreation and attended Mars Hill College for her undergrad and completed the NCSU Online Parks, Recreation, & Tourism Management program in 2015 for her master’s. Outside of youth sports, community programs, and continuing to learn as much as she can about just about everything, Laura is a competitive cyclist, competing in cyclo-cross and other cycling events.
Laura can be reached at email@example.com or 828-697-4885.
If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-832-5868.