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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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The 80/20 Rule And How It Can Change Your Life

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What is the 80/20 Rule and could it actually make 80% of your work disappear?

If you’ve studied business or economics, you’re well familiar with the power of the Pareto Principle.

The Man Behind The Concept

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Italy in 1848. He would go on to become an important philosopher and economist. Legend has it that one day he noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. This observation caused him to think about uneven distribution. He thought about wealth and discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. He investigated different industries and found that 80% of production typically came from just 20% of the companies. The generalization became:

80% of results will come from just 20% of the action:

Pareto’s 80/20 Rule

This “universal truth” about the imbalance of inputs and outputs is what became known as the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule. While it doesn’t always come to be an exact 80/20 ratio, this imbalance is often seen in various business cases:

• 20% of the sales reps generate 80% of total sales.

• 20% of customers account for 80% of total profits.

• 20% of the most reported software bugs cause 80% of software crashes.

• 20% of patients account for 80% of healthcare spending (and 5% of patients account for a full 50% of all expenditures!)

On a more personal note, you might be able to relate to my unintentional 80/20 habits.

I own at least five amazing suits, but 80% of the time or more I grab my black, well-tailored, single-breasted Armani with a powder blue shirt. (Ladies, how many shoes do you own, and how often do you grab the same 20%?)

I have 15 rooms in my house, but I spend about 80% of my time in just my bedroom, family room, and office (exactly 20%).

I’m not sure how many miles of roads are in the small town where I live, but I bet I only drive on 20% or less of them, as I make daily trips to my kids’ schools, the grocery store, the bank and gas station.

On my smartphone, I have 48 different mobile apps pinned to the tiles, but 80% of the time I’m only using the eight on my home screen.

When I go grocery shopping, I definitely spend the most time in the aisles that are around the edges of the store: produce, the fish market, dairy, breads—and generally skip the aisles in the middle of the store (except for health and beauty).

As a massive introvert, I don’t actually socialize too much, but when I do, 80% of my time is spent with the same 20% of my friends and family members.

In my research into the productivity habits of high achievers, I interviewed hundreds of self-made millionaires, straight-A students and even Olympic athletes. For them, handling every task that gets thrown their way—or even every task that they would like to handle—is impossible. They use Pareto to help them determine what is of vital importance. Then, they delegate the rest, or simply let it go.

How You Can Use It

So how can you apply Pareto’s principle to gain more time in your life?

Are you an executive? You’re surely faced with the constant challenge of limited resources. It’s not just your time you need to maximize, but your entire team’s. Instead of trying to do the impossible, a Pareto approach is to truly understand which projects are most important. What are the most important goals of your organization, or boss, and which specific tasks do you need to focus on to align with those goals. Delegate or drop the rest.

Are you a freelancer? It’s important to identify your best (and highest-paying) clients. Of course, you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. But too much diversification will quickly lead to burnout. Focus on the money makers and strengthening those long-term relationships.

Are you an entrepreneur? The temptation always exists to try the new and exciting. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it boils down to your goals. Are you trying to grow your current business? Would an 80/20 mindset help you to stay focused on your strategic plan and spend less time chasing endless new opportunities?

No matter what your situation, it’s important to remember that there are only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a week. Pareto can help you to see this is a good thing; otherwise, you’d be a slave to a never-ending list of things to do.

So, what 20% of your work drives 80% of your outcomes?

 

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