Giving Back to the Profession and the Community
By Marcella Massa
I hope to be able to present different ways in which you can excel here in the United States, improve your personal skills, and leverage your career by giving back our profession and the community. Researches have shown that when we spend our time helping other, giving our time and engaged with community activities, our level of self-confidence increase, and we feel happier. As a result, we are not only helping other, but at the same time helping ourselves. With that being said and sharing my own experience along my seven years living here, I want to present three ways in which will get you going to be more immersed and exposed in our profession.
According to Cambridge dictionary volunteer means “to offer to do something that you DO NOT have to do, often without having been asked for to do it and/or without expecting payment”. Analyze the key points: 1) you do not have to do; 2) doing without being asked, and 3) without expecting payment. Throughout my life, I have learned a lot out of volunteering work. In a workplace, the majority of the HR (Human Resource) department will agree with me, the hardest thing to teach a new employee is interpersonal skills. What is that, you might be asking yourself. Interpersonal skills measure our behavior and tactics while we interact with others. How effectively are we? How well do we work with others? Everything related with our behavior was brought within us. How could volunteering be connected with our work performance then you would ask? Volunteering helps us first and most important, expand our comfort zone. We will be more equipped to the unknown and pressure. We will be willing to take the first step. It allows us to develop our leadership skills and encourage our team (and everyone around us) to do the same. Volunteering also helps being proactive. Have you ever heard the story of the new employee that was chosen to be promoted over the senior one? If not, this is the story: “A principal in a firm once asked his senior employee to go buy some apples for the company’s breakfast. The senior came back and said: ‘Sir they don’t have apples at the store.’, the principal then asked: ‘Did they have bananas? He answers: ‘I don’t know. I didn’t ask.’ In another event the same principal asks, now, the new employee to go to buy some apples for the company’s confraternization. He comes back and the principal asks: ‘Did you find apples at the store?’ the new employee goes: ‘Sir, they did not have apples, however, the bananas was in sale and they also had some fresh strawberries. Strawberries go pretty well with bananas Sir. I bought them’”. Identifying and preventing potential problems are skills highly desirable in our professional field. The third key point to analyze is: doing without expecting payment. This point can raise some controversy among the professionals. We can and should do some “pro-bono” works for a good cause. However, I am not saying that you should be giving your services freely just for the sake of getting noticed or getting the job, this can harm the whole practice of architecture. What I want to say is that volunteer work helps us to understand that the money/payment might not be everything. In the workplace, you may not receive any payment right up front your actions. However, when we apply the volunteer principles in our daily life, we may see this coming as a better bonus in the end of the year, an unexpected promotion, or even a day off.
It is also important to talk about the benefits in which volunteering brings to ourselves. As I mentioned before, you might not receive a payment right of the bet. However, when you receive it, regardless the form, you will be fill of joy and excitement as well. You desire to always be present and serve will grow. I recently read an article, from a very well-known Healthcare provider for mental health, explaining the benefits of volunteering to ourselves. Interesting enough, even for people that are more introverted and struggle with making friends, volunteering leverages our social skills. When we are volunteering we are able to relate with the cause and the people that are serving with us. You both are looking towards the same issue/goals and together trying to make the difference. It is easier to connected with people in which we have a lot in common. Another important point to mention, it helps people to fight depression. We, humans, were wired for social connection. Volunteering increases our sense of belonging which makes us to feel happier and lower our levels of depression and anxiety. With that being said, the feeling of belong also brings the sense of purpose in life. When we feel that we are making the difference and we have a purpose, this also helps people heal from old wounds and cope from traumas. Since I moved to the US, I haven’t stop volunteering with different organizations. It helped me to feel that I belong to this new “culture, relate to other people, and grow in both professional and personal areas. I never head anyone saying that volunteering is bad in any shape or form, and I also truly believe once you see that you are filled with joy doing something that you have not been asked to do so and without expect payment… you have found your PASSION!