3 Ways to Grow Professionally

American National found that when their team plugged into these three opportunities, they saw professional and personal growth.

by Ettie Berneking

Dec 01 2022 at 8 a.m.

Photo courtesy Unsplash

Employers and employees, listen up. Developing professionally is easier than you think, and it doesn’t always require a mentor. In fact, American National found that when their team plugged into these three opportunities, they saw professional and personal growth. Team members joined professional networks, they regularly volunteered with area charities and they joined local boards. We talked with three American National employees to learn more about how these opportunities have helped them grow at work and how they get the most out of their time.

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Jennifer Henry

Jennifer Henry
Lead Specialist Projects and Brand Partnerships
Joined: The Association for Women in Communications

How Has Being Part of this Group Benefited You At Work?
We have a speaker each month, and they cover a wide range of topics that relate back to communications. I always learn a lot at our meetings, and it’s a good way to stay up to date on best practices in my field. But it’s also been a way for me to network and share ideas with people outside of my office. It’s easy to find yourself in an echo chamber at work, so this introduces new voices and ideas. It’s also been really helpful as a sounding board for new ideas at work and even when we’re looking to hire someone.

What Personal Growth Have You Seen From Being a Member?
I’ve been part of the group for 18 years, and it’s really helped me develop my leadership skills. I’ve served on the board and in leadership positions, but that wasn’t why I joined. It’s been a nice perk, but I really joined in order to build relationships with other women in my field.

What Tips Do You Have For Someone Trying To Plug In To a New Group?
Get involved beyond the monthly meetings. So if you meet someone in a new group, grab coffee with them sometime and really invest in that network. You get more out of it if you invest in it.

Jake Tucker

Jake Tucker
Senior Business Consultant on Client Experience Team
Volunteers: Springfield Dream Center

How Has Being Part of this Group Benefited You At Work?
I’ve learned so many new skills, but I’ve also improved some existing skills. For example, we cook a weekly meal for 300 people at the Dream Center, and naturally issues pop up that we have to prioritize and manage. Learning how to handle that and how to manage your team and your time in those moments is a true skill that flows over to what I do at American National.

What Personal Growth Have You Seen From Volunteering?
I got started volunteering after I learned American National gives all employees a paid day off to volunteer. I’ve been volunteering with the Dream Center for two years now, and I’ve seen a lot of personal growth from this. I know I now have a better understanding of the true drivers to poverty and what areas in our communities need more attention and focus. It’s also made me more compassionate when I see people struggling in our community, and it’s helped me become more active in my community.

What Tips Do You Have For Someone Who Wants to Start Volunteering?
Be willing to take chances and meet new people. It can be scary, but in my case, the Dream Center welcomed me with open arms. I didn’t even know organizations like this existed. This is the first organization I’ve ever seen that has an 11-pronged approach that helps people get their life back on track.

How Do You Make Sure Your Time is Well-Spent When Volunteering?
I show up motivated with a good attitude, and I make sure to go in with a mind set that we’re here to serve other people. But also, I think it’s important to find an organization that has a mission you connect with and has a way for you to plug in. For me, I liked that The Dream Center is a well-oiled machine, so my time is spent effectively. Volunteer roles are clear, and I know how to put my skills to use when I’m volunteering.

Cooper Carver

Cooper Carver
Director of Education and Development

Serves On the Board: Springfield Dream Center

How Has Being on the Board Benefited You At Work?
I believe it’s helped me be a better leader at work. I’ve certainly seen growth in my communication. As an example, it’s easy for leaders to get into a place where I’m communicating something to someone on my team that makes sense to me, but they might not learn or process the same way I do.

What Personal Growth Have You Seen From Your Time on the Board?

It's made me a more well-rounded individual. Specifically, I’m more empathetic and compassionate to others. It’s easy to get caught in a bubble and forget what’s going on with those around us. I started volunteering with the Dream Center three years ago and fell in love with the mission. Now that I’m on the board, I get to help steer the direction of the organization, and that’s a great opportunity to make a difference in our community.

What Tips Do You Have For Someone Interested in Serving on a Board?
Identify something you’re passionate about. For me, it was helping my local community. The Dream Center is in Zone 1, which is an area with a lot of poverty, but it’s also just 15 minutes from where I live. Having the opportunity to make a difference and make an impact is important to me. Also, if you want to get involved, express interest about the board and let them know what you can bring to the table. I have a background in developing educational and training content, so I can use those skills when developing classroom programs at the Dream Center. We all have skill sets that we don’t think could relate to sitting on a board, but trust me, those skills are in high demand.

How Do You Make Sure Your Time is Well-Spent When Serving on the Board?
For me, it’s important to reduce distractions and make sure I’m giving 100% when I’m there. I silence my phone so I don’t get calls and texts and emails while I’m working at the Dream Center. I think if you’re going to commit, actually be there. Don’t be thinking of the errands you have to run or responding to emails. Commit your time and give it your all.

About American National


American National is an insurance company that offers a wide range of policies for customers who need to find peace of mind. Policies cover everything from home and auto to life, health and property. The company also believes taking care of business starts with taking care of its employees, which is why it offers a comprehensive benefits program that supports all associate’s efforts and encourages a healthy work-life balance.