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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Volunteering for non-profits

I have volunteered for a considerable number of non-profits in the past and will continue to do so. I always advice my friends to find time to volunteer because:
  1. Networking: You make new friends. Some of the best friends of my adult life are from volunteer gigs. A common interest is always a good place to start a relationship; personal or professional..
  2. Team spirit: Your ability to work within teams improves. Of course, you don't get paid in money, but you learn and practice skills that are not taught in school. In older days, success meant being competitive. Now, it is all about your ability to bring value to the team. No one likes a genius asshole. The quicker you grasp that, the better it is. 
  3. You learn better time management. Someone said to me recently: 'You organize your time very well.You wear so many hats. I am impressed.' I thought to myself I could have never learned it if I were selfish about sharing my time. You know Parkinson's Law, right? Now, here is the Kar's Law 8.5.14: You can wear as many hats as you let your head.
  4. Self-restraint : You learn to smile better. A good amount of your success depends on being likeable (assuming you are already an established genius asshole. If you are just mediocre, don't bury your ideas in your effort to be likeable. Red flag there.). And trust me, it is a learnable skill. Unfortunately, people will not care if you had a bad day. For them, the moment of truth is when you interact with them. If you appear unsympathetic during that single moment, then they will assign a personality trait that might not be typically yours. Exposing yourself to a diverse mix of personalities improves your self-restraint. You learn to compartmentalize your emotions. The show goes on.
I was offered to be a board member of a non-profit I am associated with, which if I accepted (in my late 20s) would make me the youngest board member. Cool, right? Wrong. Here are a few things to consider why-

 -How aligned is their mission with your career objectives? Because you have to accept, you have a primary responsibility - your regular job.

 -How much willing are you to share your time with the same kind of people? It would become an obligation, at least for me, to stay in touch to facilitate communication and rapport. Are you prepared to be doing that on your days off? Or would you rather be networking within your professional sphere and/or unwinding with your friends? 

 -I understand that volunteering is more about what you believe in, but what if you want your primary identity to be your career? There is nothing wrong in being ambitious and wanting to dedicate a major part of your time in learning new skills required to be more competent at your job. You have to make a trade-off here and by declining some offers you are actually committing to focus on what is really important to you. 

 -Don't get dragged into the agenda of someone else. Have the discipline to say 'no' even if the offer sounds lucrative in the short-term. 

 Lastly, I'd like to say that when money is not the motivation, the power struggles become much more pronounced because humans are attuned to have a social hierarchy. Unfulfilled promises and hurt expectations bring a lot of negativity in your life. Are you willing to be in that environment and try and formulate a new protocol or would you rather be an outsider, observing and taking notes?

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