One of my favorite fireside chats ever is the conversation between Bishop T.D Jakes and Strive Masiyiwa at the 2018 Global Leadership Summit. In wrapping up what I thought was an extremely insightful conversation, Bishop Jakes asked Strive Masiyiwa what the most important business lesson he could pass on to his children would be. This is how he answered:
“What I try to remind my children all the time is, respect the people that work for us…I want them to be almost reverent in their respect for the people that work for us and how those people come every day to support the vision that we have. The best of our people are volunteers, they can be anywhere else in the world but they came to us.”
My fascination with that response is that it highlights the power of a volunteer —freedom. There is a difference between people who have to be somewhere and people who want to be there. The power to choose is the difference and what big difference it makes.
In 2017, while undergoing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, I walked into an office in one of the high brow areas of Abuja, Nigeria. I was there on the invite of the director of the organization. The meeting was a brief one. The purpose was to get a feel of who I was and to inform me that my request to volunteer with the organization had been accepted. It had always been my dream to work for a Non-profit and since the government paid me for the period I was on the NYSC scheme, I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted without thinking much about the financial implication. I chose to volunteer with a Non-profit.
I wanted to be there, I didn’t have to be. There were no conversations about remuneration because I wasn’t doing it for a paycheck. I was driven by my own commitment to myself. The six months I spent there remain one of my best work experiences. Of course, it’s not practical to be a volunteer for long but the point is, there are lessons to learn from the mindset of a volunteer and these are my top three:
The best employees are driven by a commitment to themselves, not a paycheck
I made the choice to volunteer with a Non-profit because I wanted to learn, contribute meaningfully to a cause I believed in, and to fulfill a dream I had. It was a decision I made solely for myself. I was motivated by who I wanted to be and not money. Remunerations are great but what you do is more important than what you earn. A personal commitment to what you want to achieve in life will drive you faster to being the best you can be than a fat paycheck will. I guess what I’m saying is, “take yourself seriously”.
Be your authentic self and your creative best will emerge
I think the most exciting part of my volunteer experience was the freedom I had to contribute to the organization only in the areas I was competent. I could research and write so I did a lot of that. The director of the organization was impressed with my contributions. I ended up proof-reading and editing a report on one of the organization’s biggest projects for that year; because I majored in what I was naturally good at.
When there are so many expectations and undue pressure, we become everything else other than who we really are. But the truth is, we are at our best when we are authentic and true to ourselves. I know it’s tough because, in a competitive and goal-driven environment like the workplace, it’s easy to fall for the temptation to just fit in. If you, however, manage to shrug off the pressure, you’d be surprised at what you can do. So, do everything you can to create an internal environment that allows you to be authentic.
When personal and corporate values align, the potential is huge
During my volunteer experience, I worked on projects that fostered Women and Girls’ Empowerment, Youth Participation in Politics, etc., these were causes that mattered to me. Needless to say, I did it from the heart. When people can’t see themselves in the big picture, they can’t give their best in creating it. It’s really that straightforward. Do everything you can to do build a vision that you personally believe in and you won’t always be “looking out for the next opportunity”. You get what I mean. And by all means, keep looking till you find that fit.
Follow these three steps and you’ll be on your way to building a rewarding career. I’d like to know what you think, send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or a DM on Twitter @busayodurojaye.