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5 Unexpected Career Lessons You Learn From Giving Back

Helping others is a known enhancer of quality of life. Volunteering and giving back to your community helps increase your gratitude, reduces anxiety and may even increase your productivity.

Research suggests that people who volunteered weekly experienced the same happiness boost compared to receiving a life-changing increase in pay. Giving back doesn’t just feel good in the moment; it has long-lasting benefits for your health and well-being.

But even with the best of intentions, you may find it hard to make time to get involved.

If you need extra motivation, here are the five critical career lessons you will learn from helping others and engaging in social causes.

Lesson #1: How to speak up when you disagree

Knowing how to express concern and push for organizational changes is one of the hardest career lessons to learn. Come on too strong and you risk being pegged as a troublemaker, but speak up too infrequently and you aren’t taken seriously as a professional.

This is especially sensitive if you are a woman or person of color, with the additional burden of overcoming an unconscious bias that you are complaining or being emotional.

Regardless, choosing when to speak out against an established cultural norm or way of doing business isn’t an easy decision.

Volunteering for a cause you believe in forces you to wrestle with this dilemma in an environment that isn’t tied to your paycheck. You get a chance to practice expressing your values and advocating for people with less power than you.

The more you get to exercise this skill, the better you will get at channeling your displeasure, or even outrage, into actions that actually address the issue. You learn to move from personal frustration to solutions much faster, which will make you an invaluable resource to any company.

Lesson #2: How to be a follower

There’s a lot said and written about how to be a good leader, but not nearly enough attention is spent on how to be a follower. Yet much of your career success will be determined by who you choose to follow and how you manage those relationships.

Playing even a small part in a volunteer organization teaches you how to evaluate what makes you trust a leader and how to derive satisfaction from pursuing someone else’s strategy.

The goal is to walk away from your time volunteering with a much clearer sense of your ability to follow. Are you able to trust the judgement of others or do you get easily frustrated when you aren’t in charge?

Following isn’t about blind devotion; it requires discernment, commitment and loyalty. These are the same values that will help you achieve on behalf of your boss or organization and build strong sponsorship.

Lesson #3: How to tackle problems others are afraid of

No matter how senior you are or what field you are in, being a sought-after problem solver is the secret to advancing your career to the next level.

When the hardest issues or most challenging clients come your way, you need to be prepared to address them. But learning how to solve hard problems isn’t easy.

You get better at it when you develop your ability to gather and understand historical context and quickly consolidate many differing views. You also have to be willing to work toward a less than perfect solution and refine your approach as you go. These are the exact skills that are built from engaging meaningfully in hard societal problems.

Taking time to give back inevitably enhances your career by further developing your capacity to address complex and difficult issues.

Lesson #4: How to defer to experts

Passion is not the same as expertise. You may be passionate about climate change, human rights, affordable housing or stopping animal cruelty, but you might not know enough about these topics to propose viable solutions. You have to defer to the experts.

In your career, learning when to bring in outside expertise can save you from making bad, potentially career-derailing business decisions.

Your volunteering and philanthropy should allow you to meet and learn from experts in a variety of fields. Take the opportunity to watch for examples of leaders that leverage expertise well and build strong cases for the solutions they propose.

But also pay attention to the pitfalls of decisions made without supporting data or without the inclusion of relevant experts on the topic. Sometimes seeing what not to do is the more effective teacher.

Lesson #5: How to accept defeat and play the long game

It would be nice if you could fix all the world problems simply by putting forth your best effort, but that isn’t how life works. All causes have victories and setbacks and knowing how to accept disappointment is a critical skill you will learn while trying to give back.

Take a look at your career to date and assess your ability to fail or accept defeat.

There’s a time and place for switching jobs if you are undervalued or can’t achieve your purpose, but you’ll be hurt in the long run by hasty decisions that may be motivated by a fear of failure.

Playing the long game in your career helps you see when a setback on the job should be overlooked or when it is in your best interest to weather a storm. Remember that ambition gets all the glory, but patience is often the hidden secret to extraordinary careers.

By giving back and volunteering, you can practice and learn each of these lessons while making your unique contribution to the world.

Kourtney Whitehead is a career expert and author of Working Whole. You can learn more about her work at Simply Service.

Follow me on LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’ve spent my career helping people reach their work goals, from executive searches to counseling to career coaching, through my leadership positions at top executive recruiting firms and consulting companies. I currently work to advise senior industry leaders at Fortune 500 companies on making career transitions and securing board placements. My site, SimplyService.org, is an online community supporting the creation of a values-driven work life. I hold a master’s degree in education and human development from George Washington University and am a frequent speaker and podcast guest on the topics of careers and fulfillment. My new book, Working Whole, shares how to unite spiritual and work life.

Source: 5 Unexpected Career Lessons You Learn From Giving Back

Helping others brings good feelings to the giver and the receiver of the good deeds. Using your special gifts to help others can be a gift to yourself as you enjoy a self esteem boost for making others’ lives better, and make the world a better place. You feel more worthy of good deeds yourself, your trust in the decency of people is reinforced, and you feel more connected to yourself and to others.

 

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What Microsoft Japan’s Successful 4-Day Week Suggests About Work-Life Balance

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Topline: Microsoft’s Japan office experimented with a four day workweek in August, resulting in a 40% productivity boost, with over 90% of employees reporting they preferred the shorter week⁠—which aligns with previous studies that show greater work-life balance makes for more productive employees.

  • In addition to a burst of productivity, Microsoft Japan reported it used about 23% less electricity and printed around 59% fewer pages during the experiment.
  • Microsoft Japan will conduct a second experiment over the winter and will encourage more flexible working, but it won’t include the shorter work week.
  • But previous studies show that giving employees more flexibility increases productivity; a New Zealand company permanently adopted the four day workweek in 2018, after a trial resulted in a 24% productivity increase.
  • The Harvard Business Review reported that a Chinese travel agency experienced a 13% productivity boost when it allowed call center employees to work from home.
  • In the U.S., a 2017 Stanford University study found the average worker is willing to give up 20% of their pay to avoid their schedule being set with short notice, and 8% of their pay in exchange for the option to work from home.
  • A work-from-anywhere program for patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office showed productivity gains of 4.4%, according to a 2019 working paper by the Harvard Business School.

Big number: 80 hours.That was the length of a required workweek for 25% of Japanese companies in 2016, according to CNBC.

Key background: Japan’s culture of overwork first made headlines in 2015, when a Dentsu employee died by suicide on Christmas Day after working excessive overtime, and again in 2017, when a Japanese reporter died after clocking 159 hours of overtime the month before her death. Since then, prime minister Shinzo Abe has introduced “workstyle reform” to Japan, including an annual cap of 720 overtime hours per person. Although workstyle reform’s intent is to get big companies to improve their productivity internally, the Japanese government acknowledged the burden of overwork might be passed onto small and medium businesses as a result.

Today In: Business

Surprising fact: As a result of their brutal working culture, the Japanese coined the term “karoshi,” meaning “death by overwork.”

Tangent: Despite studies that show benefits to the four day workweek, it’s not universally favored by executives. Some owners have employees work on Friday when there’s a holiday the following Monday. Others have reduced vacation time to make up for the extra weekly day off. And one Portland, Oregon tech firm experimented with a four day workweek before returning to a five day schedule, because the owner realized a shorter week meant its competitors had a leg up.

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I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose, and xoJane.

Source: What Microsoft Japan’s Successful 4-Day Week Suggests About Work-Life Balance

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After spending August experimenting with a four-day work week in a country notorious for overwork, Microsoft Japan said sales per employee rose 40% compared with the same month last year. The “Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019” saw full-time employees take off five consecutive Fridays in August with pay, as well as shortening meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and encouraging online chats over face-to-face ones. Among workers responding to a survey about the program, 92% said they were pleased with the four-day week, the software maker’s Japan affiliate said in a report on its website on Oct. 31. Japan has been struggling to bring down some of the world’s longest working hours as it confronts a labor shortage and rapidly aging population. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to make workplaces more flexible and reduce overtime has drawn mixed reviews. The summer trial also cut costs at Microsoft Japan, with 23% less electricity consumed and 59% fewer pages printed compared with August 2018, according to the report. Some Microsoft Japan managers still didn’t understand the changes in working styles and some employees expressed concern that shorter workweeks would bother clients. Microsoft Japan plans to hold another work-life challenge in winter. Employees won’t get special paid days off, but will be encouraged to take time off on their own initiative “in a more flexible and smarter way.” Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm TICTOC ON SOCIAL: Follow TicToc on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tictoc Like TicToc on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tictoc Follow TicToc on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tictoc Subscribe to our newsletter: https://bit.ly/2FJ0oQZ TicToc by Bloomberg is global news for the life you lead. We are a 24/7 news network that covers breaking news, politics, technology, business and entertainment stories from around the globe, supported by a network of Bloomberg’s 2,700 journalists across 120 countries.

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