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Most people who give career advice to women talk about the importance of volunteering for projects. What they often forget to mention is that the type of project (and the role you take in it) makes a difference. Whether you're stepping up on the job or with a professional organization, always think in terms of strategic placement rather than simple tactics.
Take on a role in which your talents and skills will be recognized as adding value. Do your research, and identify projects and roles that will put you in a position to work with senior leaders and key influencers, or provide opportunities for you to gain expert status in your area. Whatever you do, don’t volunteer (or allow someone else to volunteer you) to organize the company potluck! Even if it goes off flawlessly, the only title of recognition it will win you is "good cook" or "food planner"—neither of which are skills necessary to move into senior management.
I don’t mean to imply that you should never help with simple tasks. You should—after you take your rightful place in your organization. If you begin with tactics instead of with strategy, you'll have a hard time repositioning yourself as or someone who contributes to your company's success at a high level. Find relevant ways to demonstrate your leadership skills and differentiate yourself according to your strengths. As you move up, remember to help others do the same. A good leader knows how to make the whole team shine.
—Simma Lieberman, Career Coach