Five Reasons to Make One Decision: Catchafire

Tanzania flagI wrote in September about Catchafire, an organization that matches social-good enterprises with professionals looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities. I stepped forward to apply for some work and promised to tell you about it. Our project had a delayed start, but here’s the report (finally!).

The GLK Student Fund raises money and grants scholarships to needy and worthy students in Tanzania. GLK took a chance on me as a pro bono professional. My project included some important copywriting work. Here is what I discovered in the process.

  1. GLK, like so many other small non-profits, is driven by committed people looking to make a difference. As I worked with Gayle at GLK, it became obvious to me that she was putting every ounce of energy into her work meeting the needs of these students. Witnessing that energy, commitment and sacrifice was and continues to be an inspiration (especially on those low energy days that we all sometimes experience)
  2. These organizations value and respect the opinions and contributions of pro bono professionals. If you are feeling under-appreciated at work, grab one of these volunteer gigs. You will be a huge help and will feel better about your work, value and place in the world.
  3. Catchafire lets you filter and search for just the right project. Select your skill, filter by organizational mission, and get to work helping in a way that can stir your soul. The GLK work was a perfect match for me on several levels. Look and you’ll find one that works for you, too.
  4. After completing the project, I have stayed in touch with Gayle and we have been sharing ideas that have gone beyond the project. This has turned into a meaningful professional friendship. Who doesn’t like that?
  5. Doing this work allowed me to be creative and got me engaged thinking about something outside of my day-to-day. Before this project, I never would have known that the per capita income in Tanzania is less than $600 or just how difficult getting a decent education there can be. I can even point to the country on a map. What will inspire and challenge you?

What are your plans to do something different and meaningful in 2013? You don’t know who needs you until you look. I welcome any questions that you have and hope that you will share your experiences. Do something that really matters to celebrate the New Year!

Be sure to follow this blog and share your stories. Thanks for visiting!

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Book Review: Linchpin

I picked up the latest Seth Godin paperback release at the airport bookstore last week and devoured it. After being inspired by The Dip and The Big Moo, I was excited to have the opportunity to grab five hours of flight time for a Seth pep talk. It was worth the 16 bucks.

As an entrepreneur and someone who is constantly working to do remarkable work for my clients, Godin’s focus on artistry resonated and validated what I and many of my clients do every day: Engage in “artistry” (Godin’s term), rising above the pack to add that which cannot be described in a policy manual or procedure, adding that special something – creativity, emotional energy, caring – that sets my work above the rest. You probably do that too, and are at your best and most energized when you are in that zone. Godin profiles people including coffee shop employees, CEOs and sales executives, creating opportunities to identify commonality between the reader and Godin’s subjects.

One of the reasons that I still prefer paper books over the Kindle for non-fiction with lasting value is that I like to scribble in the margins. Stars, checks, lines, comments and other visual reminders of, “Hey, this seemed important at 30,000 feet,” make up my system. This book is now filled with them.

Are you working for someone else? Become a linchpin. Be indispensable be doing more than is expected, by adding the qualities that are unique to you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Work hard, work fast and give you best as a gift to your clients and employees. You too will become indispensable.

Godin’s point is simple, but profound in its ramifications. If your job can be described in a training guide or a policy manual, if it can be automated or given to someone else willing to do it at a lower price, you are cooked. He challenges us to think and act, working to be remarkable, indispensable artists of our trades.

I Can’t Take Your Money

A Note about Work: I am taking the Work blog in a different direction as it becomes more obvious every day that our economy and our work experiences are also shifting. In our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, working was about finding a good company, staying there for decades, and getting out with whatever the retirement package the organization offered. While this is still true for some (e.g. public school teachers and police officers), more of us are spending at least some portion of our work lives without the comfort of a paycheck. Instead, we have to spend some time, either by choice or by necessity, figuring it out for ourselves and earning some of our money in other ways. Our employment relationships are more contractual and much shorter-term.

It is with that understanding and the experience from my own entrepreneurial efforts that I am adding this dimension to the blog. While there will still be a lot of useful information (at least I hope that you think so) about job hunting and career management, this extra element will make the blog more reflective of the experiences that my clients, my colleagues and I share. My hope is that you can learn from them and me, both copying the wins and avoiding the mistakes. Please share your reactions and ideas.

Sometimes, you just have to walk away from the money. You get excited about the opportunity to close more business, send out another invoice and watch the money flow. It happens a lot if you are running a successful business – however you define success – but there are times when you just have to say, “No, I can’t take your money.”

I recently worked with someone who wanted me to review some of her work and possibly make some improvements and changes. She mentioned several times that she was willing to pay me for my time. Upon reviewing her material, I realized that it was already very good and that there was very little that I could do to make it much better. Maybe a tweak here and a little polish there, but that was about it. I told her what I thought, gave some advice for free and moved on, thanking her for the opportunity to help.

I am not sharing this to make you think that I am a saint, ready to work for free and give away my services. Instead, I share this because there is more to the story. Because of my decision, this potential client went public with the story and gave me a solid recommendation on a huge social media site. I also know – at least with some certainty – that if she ever has the opportunity to refer someone to me, she will.

Consider the value of the good will that you can earn by doing something for nothing. Whether it is in your own gig or while working for others, sometimes some free advice, a little extra effort with expectation of reward, and a “thanks for thinking of me” can pay bigger dividends than a few dollars in the bank.