By Mahiuddin Palash, Past President of Rotary Club of Dhaka Midtown (Bangladesh), District Vocational Service Committee Chair 2023-24, District 3281, and District Rotaract Representative 1998-99, District 3280. Follow him on Facebook.
Let’s take a look at our Rotary journey. We weren’t recruited just because of our smiles or friendly personalities. We were invited to join Rotary because our professional skills had the potential to make a real difference, and because we hold a shared commitment to serving others. It all started with Vocational Service. As the 2023-24 Vocational Service Committee Chair for District 3281 in Bangladesh and with 28 years of service to Rotary, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of this philosophy.
Today, I want to share my story of how Vocational Service enriched my professional journey and inspire you to use your skills to make a lasting difference in your community.
What is Vocational Service
Unlike other service organizations, Rotary doesn’t just focus on volunteering your time. It’s about using your professional expertise – the very skills you excel at – to make a real difference. This is fundamental to every club. And simultaneously, Vocational Service is about applying ethical standards to all that we undertake – through Rotary, in our personal lives, and in the workplace. Vocational Service encourages and fosters:
• high ethical standards in business and professions;
• the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and
• the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.
We can put these ideals into action by:
Empowering through learning and skill development. Joining the strategic marketing team of a telecommunications company was the start of my career. I had “zero” education in any marketing discipline, but I was a Rotaractor. How could I not make a difference? Numerous learning sessions with a late past district governor, a renowned marketing management consultant, gave me the tools I needed to break through in my career. I reaped the benefits of Rotaract’s “professional development service” and Rotary’s “vocational service” in my own life.
Serving using our unique skills to address community needs. Another extraordinary story is of a Rotarian doctor who, alongside other passionate Rotarians, founded the then only tertiary-level cancer hospital in the northern part of Bangladesh in 2002. The country ranks fourth in the world in cervical cancer deaths.
Inspiring to act with integrity by following Rotary’s guiding principles. Many clubs in Bangladesh, like Dhanmondi Dhaka, Metropolitan Dhaka, and Uttara, are presenting a “vocational excellence award”, a highly regarded recognition that celebrates exceptional individuals who use their professional talents to support communities.
Attracting and retaining young leaders. While “Service” and “Fellowship” are often cited as the top reasons for joining and staying in Rotary, “professional and personal development” is a powerful but often overlooked tool for attracting and retaining young leaders. It worked with me when I was a young professional. Telecommunications is a highly competitive business, and a career in this industry requires a strong network of people within sales and public relations, understanding market dynamics, identifying unmet needs, business intelligence, and many other areas. Rotary’s network gave me the competitive edge in all of these areas to move my company and my career forward.
My fellow club members can share similar stories. One of them joined Rotary about eight years ago at a young age when he was struggling with his new business as a buying agent in the garment industry. His efforts and Rotary connections allowed him to take a leap. He left Rotary to focus on his business, but he came back as his schedule allowed and will be a club president next year.
Here are a few more examples of Vocational Service in action:
The Rotary Club of Birmingham, Alabama, USA, partners with their Rotaract club on a mentoring program. Rotaractors are paired with Rotarians to foster stronger vocational, civic, and personal relationships. Rotaractors learn from Rotarians, especially in areas related to their future careers and industry sectors, and Rotarians have the chance to share vocational expertise with youth. Often, the Rotarians learn more from the Rotaractors than they could have imagined.
The Rotary E-Club of Tamar Hong Kong organized seminars for young leaders on balancing a career and everyday life. Members of the club shared insights on different industries, such as travel, jewelry, entertainment, and entrepreneurship. Youth also learned how to write a résumé and cover letter, and they received interview coaching.
A district in South Africa used district grant funds to send a vocational training team to a community in another part of the country to provide teacher training in mathematics, science, and classroom skills. With the help of teachers, parents, and the community, this training will help two high schools increase the number of students who pass university entrance exams.
My story, alongside these inspiring examples, showcases the remarkable impact we can achieve when we unite our professional expertise with the Rotary spirit of service. Now, the question is: How will you write your own chapter in the book of Vocational Service? Share your Vocational Service story in the comments section.
The Vocational Service in Action handbook provides additional resources to incorporate these ideals into your professional life and service activities. For more inspirational stories, subscribe to the Rotary Service newsletter.