volunteering

Morning. This blog has nothing to do with the Brexit news. Nothing.  

I’m a massive fan of volunteers, any of the grads who’ve been through an hour, day, week or 12 week training course with me will know how much I like volunteers.

It was a long time ago, right back at the very beginning of my career when I found myself having a chat with one of the most senior guys in the company I worked for. I asked him, mainly because I was struggling to think of what to say, “Do you have any advice that you can give me?" well, what else are you supposed to ask?

For the record a bit later on in this blog or maybe even a separate post we’ll talk about how I think grads should approach these situations, because actually it’s not easy. Making conversation with someone that is unavoidably intimidating is tough. By the way “making conversation” – “making” (?!?!) – we’ll come back to this.

But – back to the story. OH, I can’t believe I didn’t give this guy a made-up name. Right, let’s call him Troy. So, Troy and I are chatting at the bar of what I think (from memory) was some kind of end of financial year or start of new financial year drinks thing. I’d just said to him “Troy, do you have advice for someone 2 months into their career?” and he turned to me and said “the thing I wish I’d started doing earlier was volunteering.”

“Oh yeah? What kind of thing do you do?”

“No I mean just volunteering to do stuff,”

“Oh right”

“About four years into my first job I heard that there was a business in Northampton that no-one wanted to go and work in and was really struggling. So I went to speak to my boss and said, ‘give me a shot’”

“wow, how did it go?”

“the funny thing is he didn’t let me go, when I put my hand up and volunteered for the job they started to take me more seriously in my existing role, gave me more responsibilities”

“Oh right I see”

“I realised then and there that the key was volunteering, when someone needs something done you put your hand up and ask if you can do it”

Regular readers will have spotted that this is now the second consecutive blog that has had a relatively decent length bit of dialogue typed out in it. Thoughts on that welcome…

So, volunteering.

What’s does being the one who “puts their hand up” mean. Well the good version is that it means you’re enthusiastic, motivated, hard-working, ambitious (the good kind - see earlier blog) brave, driven, willing to take risks, helpful and probably useful too.

What is the worst thing that volunteering might mean? Well I suppose it could mean/come across that you’re ‘trying too hard’ or that you’re the wrong kind of ambitious (again see earlier blog) – but let’s assume you’re a graduate starting out in a job that you like and you get the opportunity to do something extra, different, challenging, outside your normal day job, working with some new people on something new – you should ‘bite their hands off’ at the opportunity.

Saying ‘yes I’ll take part in the charity cycle ride’, ‘yes I’ll test the new app for you and write up some decent notes’ ‘yes I’ll go that event that my boss mentioned could be good for ‘someone’ to attend’. There are opportunities to volunteer all the time and the trade-off that they all, always require is your time.

When you’re starting out in your career time is the one thing that you can afford to use, it’s kind of the only commodity that you have when your experience is so limited. It’s not, people early on in their career have tons to offer, but you get what I’m trying to say.

So “Who wants to take part?” or “Do we have any volunteers?” is a question that you should always answer with “I’ll do it”. Multiply the experiences up over a 40-50 year career and saying “yes, me please” or “Yes, I’ll do that” will be a significant factor that influences your success, but crucially (and almost certainly) your happiness too.

As any Arch Graduate will tell you, once you start volunteering you’ll quickly see the knock on effect it has and it’ll fast become the best habit you’ve got.

Until next week - maybe then we can talk about Brexit