Main takeaways from this article:
1) Doing work to help others doesn’t always have to be seen as a moral obligation
2) Look at the work you do as an accomplishment greater than its immediate face value -- you’re making yourself better in all sorts of ways too!
3) Understanding that being exposed to a setting with new faces in a willing way is a perfect opportunity to make new friends and expand your network.
I’ve come to learn that doing volunteer work has helped me understand that partaking in events like this has all sorts of benefits -- most of which I never knew I would encounter beforehand.
I actually did plenty of volunteer work before coming to the realization that doing this kind of stuff would do good for me in any way, and dreaded most of it. My childhood resulted in me developing this kind of stigma against volunteer work. Growing up, I had to do volunteering my parents made me sign up for and had to tally up my hours for school requirements. I didn’t ever see a reason to enjoy it then; why should I like putting effort into something only to not get an immediate return from it? I knew that helping people was a good reason, but my inner conscious knew that it was an obligation fulfilled simply to keep myself less guilty and not truly fulfilled. When looking around, I notice that friends, just like many other people might have this feeling too, have a similar feeling towards this kind of work too.
What ended up making me change my mind about what volunteering means to me was a happy accident. Being a new freshman at college, I had a lot of time I needed to kill, so I sought events to keep me busy. I found and started going to weekly networking event called Venture Cafe which, to me, was a very relevant passion. Here, I discovered that I encountered an environment where I could speak with all sorts of bright new entrepreneurs and venture seekers like myself.
What was wonderful to me is the idea that everyone there is to share constructive input or get input on some ideas they had, whether it was for their own home-run family business, or twelve-year running startup. That way, I had the opportunity to get full exposure to the real world of business creation no matter what point I would find myself at. I loved being there so much, that I was approached by some of the staff who worked there who recommended I look into their volunteer program. Once signing up and working as a volunteer, I continued to do all of the talking and networking I enjoyed, except in the times where I wouldn’t know who to talk to or felt like taking a break from all the chit chat, I got to actually help around and do useful work like cleaning, organizing or taking photographs for the event website. This felt much more fulfilling as I got to do what I wanted for myself as well as helping others around me and in the community I ended up caring about.
I actually realized, for once, that volunteering didn’t have to stand as a moral obligation for the exclusive effort of putting my own time aside to help others, but that helping what you directly care about, and indirectly/directly those around you benefiting from the same thing, was an enjoyable and constructive way to make effort. You could experience the same thing if you simply change your mindset on how you seek out volunteer work. Instead of saying that, ‘you want to look for volunteer work,’ you could say, ‘you want to help build on the passion that you share with others'. I found a similar passion at VyB, where I was accepted as a Future Leader. VyB is an up and coming Philly based start-up that is disrupting the space of ratings and reviews.
This takeaway was a personal realization, just as I learned many more things about myself from this kind of volunteering. But what’s important is that I know that anyone else can find positive ways about how passionate volunteer experience could lead to others learning more about themselves too.
After learning that I could love volunteer work, I developed a new mindset in how I can approach helping people in all sorts of new settings, both in and out of work. Even though Because of this, I became much more comfortable with and more experienced in the realm of making new friends, or identifying and keeping connected with useful contacts. If you could develop this type of comfort in a head-first outgoing approach to meeting new people too, that would serve to help you expand your network in all sorts of ways too, both professionally and socially.
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