An Essay by Ray Fisk

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ARC: Service: Tips: An Investment Approach to Service

by Raymond P. Fisk, University of New Orleans

Most universities expect their faculty to engage in three professional activities: teaching, research and service. As faculty members, professional service can be one of our most rewarding and fulfilling activities. Nonetheless, many faculty view their obligation to perform service with distaste. Such faculty have adopted the short sighted view that service is an expense to be minimized or avoided. In this short article, I present the argument that professional service should be viewed as an investment and explain my personal views on investing well. Service is an investment in yourself, in your academic institution and in your profession. Let's look at the topics of why to invest, where to invest, when to invest, and how to invest in service.

Why Invest in Service?

It is my belief that each of us, by our actions, has to earn the right to call ourselves a professional. One of the most important actions we can take is to build and strengthen our profession. This statement would be true for any profession, but marketing is not like most professions. Marketing is seen by large numbers of people throughout the world as anything but a profession. By our conduct, each of us has an obligation to help change this misguided perception of marketing. Professional service strengthens our skills and abilities as professionals. Further, good professional service helps strengthen your personal reputation, the reputation of your academic institution, and the reputation of our marketing profession.

Where to Invest in Service?

Each of us can choose to invest our energies in service activities at various levels. We can choose to participate in service at the department, college, university, and professional levels. Service is often one of the best ways for our colleagues to come to know us as a person. If you only invest in service at the departmental level, then only the members of your department will know you. If you only invest in service at the college level, then only the members of your college will know you. If you only invest in service at the university level, then only the members of your university will know you. If you only invest in service at the professional level, then only the members of your profession will know you. Invest in them all, but do it strategically!

When to Invest in Service?

Like financial investment, each of us must decide when to invest based upon our resources. At early stages of your career, you should invest cautiously. At later stages of your career, you should invest enthusiastically. When you are an untenured Assistant Professor, it is typically best to invest most of your service efforts in service to your department and to your college. In addition to teaching, research and service, collegiality is often the invisible fourth promotion criterion. Good service to your department and college helps convince your colleagues that you are a good colleague who is worthy of tenure. When you are a tenured Associate Professor, it is time to put more emphasis on service to your university and your profession. Finally, as a Professor, service at all levels, but especially to the profession, is highly desirable. Ideally, a faculty member who achieves the rank of Professor is ready to become a “Senior Statesman” in the profession.

How to Invest in Service?

Become a wise and active investor in service activities. Like financial investing, it is possible to under or over invest. If your colleagues see you as refusing to share in service activities, you are probably under invested. Conversely, if your service activities are so intense that you are neglecting your teaching or research duties, then you clearly are investing too much of your energy in service activities.

If you are an active investor in service, you will have more opportunity to choose your service activities. If you are a passive investor, especially within your university, you will tend to be assigned or given the least desirable service duties. In general, there are three levels of activity for any service role: member, participant, and leader. A person is merely a member of a committee or association if she chooses not to engage in further activity. A person is a participant if he does more than the minimum by becoming more fully engaged in the activities of the committee or association. A person is a leader if she is elected or selected to guide the activities of the committee or association. Each of us must find the proper balance between the roles of member, participant and leader. On one extreme, you shouldn't always be just a member. On the other extreme, you can't possibly have the energy or time to be a leader of everything. I encourage you to find those service opportunities in your department, college, university and profession activities that meet your personal goals and values.

To me, the American Marketing Association seemed to be the best place to invest my service efforts because it was the oldest and largest marketing association in the world. As an Assistant Professor, my earliest service efforts in the AMA were as a Faculty Advisor to our AMA Collegiate Chapter and participation in AMA Summer and Winter Educators' conferences by doing such things as reviewing manuscripts, serving as a discussant and attending conference sessions. Later, when I was an Associate Professor, I was asked to serve as a track chair for several different AMA conferences. I also started the AMA Services Marketing Special Interest Group in 1993. More recently, as a Professor, I have been elected to the AMA Academic Council as an officer and then President. Along the way, I became actively involved in my local AMA Professional Chapters, too. These AMA activities are investments because they provided me opportunities for personal growth and for contributing to the success and prosperity of the marketing profession.

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