Career Coach: How can I make a difference?

Ever feel like you’re not really making a difference? This week Career Coach Kate Savage deals with how you can add more value in your job.

Hi Kate, I’ve been in agencies for about 10 years now and have this constant nagging feeling that what I’m doing is just about lining people’s pockets and it’s not actally doing the world any good. I want to make a sifference. How can I do that? Do I need to leave, re-train, drop my salary?

Kate SavageHi,

Can I ask, are you about to hit 30 or 40 by any chance?

I only ask as at some point many of us can’t shake that feeling that we want to ‘make a difference’, and it’s often around one of these milestones in my experience. It was quite a weight off my shoulders when I finally realised that (for me) ‘making a difference’ 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…

One person can make a massive difference; it’s relative and scalable. From Nelson Mandela to your favourite teacher, to the bus driver who re-opens the doors for you when you’re pegging it up the street with your laptop flailing behind you.

It can come in all shapes and sizes. And making a difference to one person in whatever way they need it is still making a difference.

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 and every message on my leaving card said thank you. That was an awesome feeling.

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 is not your only option.

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 have the power to help someone leave anxiety behind, find their direction, their confidence, their happy place.

If leaving your current role is not an option, make staying a choice. Volunteer in a space you’re passionate about, or set up a volunteer program at work. Think about your skills and strengths. If I didn’t give money, what else could I give – time, design, marketing, finance skills?

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.

Remember, if you only make one person’s day better at work today – that’s ‘making a difference’ too.

  • If you have a question you’d like answered, just email kate.savage@elbowroomcoaching.com – named or anonymous, on any career topic

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