Volunteering Opens Up Worlds
When employees are not satisfied in their careers for whatever reason, I encourage them to volunteer. No job will allow every employee to explore every talent and every skill they have. Non-profits are often hungry for talent and enthusiastic, committed volunteers.
Volunteering has always been part of my professional development plan. With volunteering, there is no limit to what anyone can do or how they can contribute. Personally, I've served on Boards, raised funds, created agency reviews, cooked, served drinks, worked phone banks (when there were phone banks), brought my dog and my toddler nephew for visits at senior centers, organized, funded and attended mission trips, have written marketing pieces and listened to people's stories as they've endured times of trauma. When you're looking to fill a skill gap volunteering opens a lot of doors. You'll also meet like-minded people who are passionate about the causes they serve.
Most recently, a neighbor asked me to volunteer at Hostel International USA. She said, "you have the personality for it." She wanted me to take travelers to see local sites. She brought me to a party, introduced me to a few people and I was soon on the roster of tour guides. Saying "yes" to that opportunity led me to an opportunity that was even perfect for me, the HI USA Explore the World Travel Scholarship Committee. I enjoy giving tours but being part of the Travel Scholarship Committee, providing access to young people to see the world, makes my heart sing out loud.
This new prospect allowed me to learn to function better in a multi-cultural, multi-generational team. Learning from many viewpoints is critical when working in matixed teams. I learned a new process for subjective decision making. Objective decision making, based sheerly on facts is easy. It's so easy; it will soon be outsourced with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Mastering the art of subjectivity, or attempting to influence more altruistic decisions in a subjective process is what will make the workforce of the future valuable.
So how can a subjective process be more equitable? By recognizing the subjectivity. One hundred ten applicants with hopes and dreams will pull some of the committee member's heartstrings for sure. Which 10 of the one hundred and ten applicants were the right ones? To come to a more conclusive consensus, the committee evaluated a group of anonymous applicants, identified only by a number, and voted for their top ten. The committee member was assigned a partner to review the same group of applicants select their top ten from the same group of applicants. The partners discussed where there were variances and made our cases for our selections. As a team, we reviewed all those selected. Ultimately, the staff took all of the recommendations into consideration and then selected the final ten — no easy feat. Of course, we wanted to say yes to ALL of them. There, were, of course, some objective criteria that had to be met i.e. income requirements, geographic constraints and the application had to be complete.
We just celebrated the ten that were selected this year. My learning continued as I became a better Instagram user by following an awardee on her trip to Uganda where she went to help educate children with hearing impairments. I saw people grab opportunity to enhance their careers and business dreams. A young woman who owns and operates an organic farm in Illinois went to Italy to learn more about European agriculture.
If you, your employees or your team are looking for ways to enhance skill, I encourage you strongly to consider volunteering. Working with people who are not being paid is a good way to test influence, leadership and organizational skills.