Making a difference

It was National Volunteers Week last week, and listening to the amazing stories of people selflessly helping other people reminded me of what a difference once person can make.

Many of us want to ‘make a difference’. It was quite a weight off my shoulders when I finally realized that didn’t necessarily mean saving Africa (my childhood dream was to end apartheid). I didn’t have to go and work for a charity organization. I didn’t have to give up my job and my salary to go and volunteer somewhere…
'Making a difference' comes in all shapes and sizes. And making a difference to one person in whatever way they need it is still making a difference.
One person can make a massive difference; it’s relative and scalable. From Nelson Mandela to Bob Geldof…to Joe who runs my local coffee shop, to the bus driver who re-opens the doors for you, to the staff looking after our Aged generation when it’s hard for them to do it themselves.
I work with people who are feeling lost, distracted or overwhelmed – or all 3! My job is to try and turn this around for them, with them.
One client on Friday said she had been through the Transformation of the Year! Another called to say thank you. A year ago was a pretty lonely place for her, now she’s in an awesome role that she loves, her confidence is back and she’s kicking goals all over the place! 
One of the things that helped me realize that I had to define what ‘making a difference’ meant to me, or was 'enough' for me, was when I left one of my previous roles. As often happens with women in middle management, I was in charge of People. In my case this was planned, as it’s the area I loved most about my role. I ‘went into battle’ for each of them, all of them, regularly but had no idea whether they knew this – and often it would be better if they didn’t. But when I left the MD told everyone about my work behind the scenes (kudos, as it was annoying as hell for him I’m sure!)…and every single message on my leaving card said thank you. The best feeling ever.
So, obviously the more people you can help the better, but there’s also an argument for quality over quantity when it’s relevant.
If you work in advertising and you’re facing an ‘I need to be making a difference’ dilemma, try and remember that quitting and moving to a Kibbutz are not your only options.
Being a brilliant boss can make a WORLD of difference to the team working for you - and vice versa.

Mentoring one person – inside or outside work – can change their life.
You might be working in the ‘1st world problems’ space, but you have the power to help someone leave anxiety behind, find their direction, their confidence, their happy place.
You can be a Mentor, or behave as a Mentor rather than a Manager.
Set up a volunteer program at work.
Volunteer yourself in a space you’re passionate about.
Think about your skills and strengths. If I didn’t give money, what else can I give – time, design, marketing, finance skills?
And what do you want to learn? Is there a skill ‘missing’ from your CV that could be fulfilled in a volunteer role?
And think about your personality type – are you a people person, task focused, an organiser? Not everyone is comfortable with one-on-one’s, you might be more suited to organizing an event?
If people stopped thinking about it as an either/or situation, I think a lot of great work would get done a lot sooner. You don't have to leave your day job - start consciously making a difference today. Often it's these roles of passion that actually help develop your career.
One step at a time, even if your goal is to save the world.
If you only make one person’s day better at work today – that’s ‘making a difference’ too.


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