After completing my Psychology undergrad degree, I didn’t work for a year, two, if you don’t include my remarkably humble freelancing year.
Why you might ask? Did I not hear back from the hiring managers I sent my resumes to? A round of unsuccessful interviews? No offers?
Not quite. I didn’t really apply anywhere. 😬
The number of applications I sent out was too unreasonably small to actually expect to get a job.
In my mind, I wanted to work, but I was too distracted by “what if” to pursue anything.
I wanted to write and work for social centers and help women and the mentally ill and have a creative job. Most importantly, I wanted to make a difference.
See, I was raised in a way that didn’t leave much place for contemplation on whether I was special or not. My uniqueness and talents were praised and celebrated by my family. They showed me the importance of integrity, held me accountable, and supported me every step of the way.
Yes, I’m one of those people.
I wanted to do everything and do everything beautifully, loudly, perfectly.
As any grown-up would tell you, when you don’t have the experience or the skills, it’s tough for things to go perfectly. It’s hard to even “convince” people you deserve a chance. The good news is, things don’t go perfectly, like ever, and no one hires you to be perfect and all-knowing. The people that hire you are far from perfect themselves.
If I wasn’t making a difference, while doing it perfectly, I didn’t want anything to do with it.
Fortunately, I had racked up quite a few skills, but they still weren’t tested in the workplace and thus not particularly reliable.
Fortunately, the younger you are, the more you’re hired for potential rather than factual value. As long as you have the right mindset and want to work and learn, you’ll find a good job, a great one, even.
My mistake (and probably yours too)
I thought the job description itself and the company were the ones that would make the difference. Not me. I would simply be there to enlighten them with my extensive background, myriad of skills, and years of experience.
Like I mentioned in How to find the perfect job, you have to start. You can do all the talking you fancy, if you don’t take action against all that wrongful beast you’re complaining about, you’re adding to the problem.
To make the difference I wanted, I had to start. I no longer could blame my country, other companies, other people, the stigma, politics, policies.
Unless you work for, like, a child porn website, or scamming old people, there are ways you can make a positive impact on others’ lives. If you work for a child porn website, just know that my Google Analytics is sending your address information to the police, and I’ll personally come by to make sure you rot in hell.
Like I was saying, no matter what industry you’re in or what your position entails, here are three ways to make a difference and have a positive impact.
#1 Make a donation to those in extreme poverty or to the content creators you enjoy
Giving back is your shortest, safest bet to make sure you’re making a difference.
Give back as much as you can afford, depending on your salary and your savings plan, without putting yourself or your future in danger.
According to 80,000 Hours, the non-profit that offers research and support to people that want meaningful careers, people’s life satisfaction is higher if they donate.
“If someone earning that average level of income were to donate 10%, she could double the annual income of 11 people living in extreme poverty each year. Over the course of her career, she could have a major positive impact on hundreds of people.“Benjamin Todd, No matter your job, here’s 3 evidence-based ways anyone can have a real impact
Research shows that after you make a certain amount of money, anything beyond that isn’t adding to your happiness levels.
80,000 Hours has plenty of resources when it comes to creating a meaningful career, as well as Impactpool.
It’s where I learned about Give Directly, the leading global NGO specialized in delivering digital cash transfers. You can send money to people in extreme poverty directly, and even a dollar makes a difference. Here’s their website. They’re very transparent about everything, and you know how much I love that shit.
Also, CashApp transfers and BuyMeACoffee are all the rage right now for a reason. A lot of content creators struggle to make ends meet.
Whoever it is you follow or look up to, unless they’re like multi-millionaires, consider “buying them a drink.”
Putting your moola to good use is a simple way to turn your career into an impactful one.
#2 Do the most where you work
Looking at the bigger picture is hard when life and menial tasks get in the way. You might think, “I’m a waiter in a modest coffee shop, there’s nothing more to it.”
Wherever you work, and wherever you are, good deeds are just around the corner. What that means is, you have to get creative, and also maybe go out of your comfort zone more than you’d like.
People in fields where it’s a given you’ll help out and make an impact find it easier to move through spaces and conversations. They’re entitled to it in a way. Still, you don’t need to be a therapist to make an impact.
When David’s client stepped into his salon and asked him to style her hair, he asked if she had any special plans that night. A party, some type of social engagement, anything? She said no, nothing special. Which wasn’t exactly true. In fact, she did have something planned for that night. Something big. She was planning to end her life — and she wanted her hair to look nice at her funeral.It all matters. by Alexandra Franzen
The hairdresser was so sweet, that the woman decided not to follow through with her suicide plan. You can read the story at the link, it’s so moving that David actually wrote a book on it, Life As a Daymaker: How to Change the World by Simply Making Someone’s Day.
Don’t you simply love that term, daymaker? All of us, in little ways, can make someone’s day, especially at work, where we spend 1/3 of our time.
For some slightly unrelated good news, according to social exchange theory, people help only when rewards (recognition, fame, etc.) surpass costs, so there’s no such thing as true altruism. Boo! I asked 80 people to find out if that’s true. The results were positively surprising.
By going the extra mile, hell, sometimes by just being kind to someone, we can make a world of difference.
Like David did. Like hundreds of others do every day, with a smile, a compliment, a conversation.
#3 Sprinkle the good stuff inside your job
In one of my first jobs, I literally had an Evernote task called “mini therapy”, that reminded me to add resources and information for a coworker, since she’d mentioned struggling with mental health issues.
This was completely out of line, of course, and I’m so glad I didn’t follow through with it.
Trying to help people you haven’t yet established a rapport of trust with, with such delicate issues, especially in professional settings, isn’t a good idea.
There are things you can do inside the job, without crossing boundaries or risking your position.
Food is a very delicate topic for a lot of people, even though so many pretend it isn’t.
For example, I worked for a food delivery startup, being in charge of most of their communications. With every email, message, answer, article, post, I made sure I wasn’t promoting diet culture, fat-shaming, eating disorders, or unhealthy eating habits. It was a small thing that made a difference- imagine if everyone carefully chose their words and actions!
Similarly, wherever I’ve worked, in conversations with colleagues and bosses and clients, I’ve made sure to foster a healthy culture. I’ve taken a stand against misogyny, injustice, ableism, transphobia, debatable work practices, sexism in the workplace, shady marketing, etc.
The way I see it, and I’ve talked about this countless times, online and offline, if even one person out of the hundreds I’ve crossed paths with, felt less alone or changed a prejudice, I consider having made a huge impact.
We downgrade the importance of a single person and what they can do, but isn’t that who we are? A single entity?
Isn’t our mother a single person?
Isn’t our favorite teacher?
Our best friend?
Haven’t they made a world of difference to us?!
If you find ways to incorporate all the good stuff: self-love, mental health, equal rights, justice, hard work, empathy, integrity, little by little, in your work and conversations, even though you might not feel it some days, you’ve made a huge positive impact.
This is probably the last of this series. I really enjoyed writing these and listening to your thoughts, comments, and feedback.
Let’s close off with a controversial figure, and an incredibly simple yet spot-on quote.
Love and work… work and love, that’s all there is.Sigmund Freud
I’ve been posting this series about education, careers and how to choose them to my blog over the past few weeks. Find the others below
First – My Uncomplicated Relationship With Education
Second – Choosing a Major, the Pros and Cons, Usages, Realizations, and Regret?
Third – A Trip Back in Time, Stats, Action Bias: How to Find the Perfect Job for You