I had the pleasure of meeting Marie-Yolaine at a book party a few weeks back and was thoroughly impressed with her drive and commitment to Community2Community (C2C). As a career coach, I am always interested in learning more about how people transitioned into the careers they have, and Marie-Yolaine’s story struck me as most interesting. She had worked in corporate America with no non-profit management experience, but when the crisis in Haïti became front-page news, she quit her job and founded C2C. Quite brave and impressive!
Many of the clients I work with feel stuck in jobs that pay the bills, but don’t make them “feel good” about what they are doing. Most don’t have the courage, or the means, to leave their jobs and dive into non-profit work that would likely be personally satisfying, but might leave them unable to pay the bills.
Luckily, doing work for a meaningful cause doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” proposition. Many organizations offer opportunities for interested people to spend their vacation weeks, long weekends or summer holidays volunteering for their cause. Whether it is collecting donations, helping to build homes or providing professional expertise, there is always an organization looking for passionate volunteers—whether they can give one day or one year.
Corporations are becoming more and more conscious of this desire to “give back”. Many are involved in supporting non-profits and encourage their employees to be as well. Some even have paid “Volunteer Days” off, and offer incentives to employees that volunteer. For example, Ernst & Young’s Corporate Responsibility Fellows Program appeals to top performers looking for a way to give back to the world through work, while exploring a new country and culture. The Fellows program sends a highly select group of high-octane talent to low-income countries for three months at full pay. They use their skills to galvanize promising local entrepreneurs at a critical point in their business — typically providing help they couldn’t otherwise afford — and help jump-start growth in these emerging markets.
If your company doesn’t have a formalized volunteer program, suggest one. Research has shown that encouraging employee volunteerism is a winning proposition. According to a United Healthcare Survey released 4/2010, employers who establish formal volunteering programs for their employees, benefit in several important and distinct ways. From an employee perspective, current employees who volunteer through their workplace have a more positive feeling toward their employer and report a strengthened bond with co-workers.
For those who are ready to take the plunge into full-time work with “meaning”, check out Encore.org, a wonderful organization geared to helping those looking for second-act careers that encompass passion and meaning. Though the organization focuses on those near retirement age, it is a valuable resource for career changes of all ages, providing useful information and resources for finding and transitioning to careers with meaning.
The bottom line: everyone has the opportunity to make a difference. Whether you are able to volunteer one hour, one month or one year, it is a proposition guaranteed to add meaning, both to your life and to someone else’s. Just do it!
Pamela Weinberg is a Career Coach and Personal Branding Strategist working with a multitude of populations ranging from students and alumni; to professional organizations and corporations; to women in transition. She is also co-founder to Mind Your Own Business Moms.