5 Ways to Use Your Professional Skills to Give Back
Whatever you do for a living, from accounting to cooking to teaching, there's a community organization that can use those skills to help make the world a better place. Why just be a nurse when you can become a citizen nurse? You may think you are too busy with your job to do good. You also may think making a difference is better left to saintly, self-sacrificing heroes like Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale. But think again.
You have valuable talents that can be harnessed for a cause, even if it's just for a few minutes a day. Careers today are being reinvented in ways that benefit both the individuals who practice them and the society in which they live. There's a new way of thinking about work that satisfies the desire for self-advancement and personal benefit, as well as the latent idealism so many people have learned to suppress or ignore. That's what being an engaged professional is all about.
2. Find Ways to Get Your Workplace Involved in Social Activism
More and more companies are now practicing good citizenship. How can yours provide support to worthy causes through donations of time, talent, goods or services? Start by re-examining your occupation's ethical code or professional standards, or your employer's mission statement or professional standards. Think about a small way you can help lead fellow employees to follow these standards more proactively. Consider how you can help everyone in your profession to start thinking like citizen professionals and applying their professional skills to address social problems that could benefit from those skills.
If your line of work doesn't already have a recognized code of conduct or ethical standards, consider writing one. It should embody your personal ethical values and encapsulate how those values are expressed in the work you do. Share your effort with a couple of like-minded colleagues. It may stimulate some lively discussion about what you can do to incorporate social benefits into your daily work.
What to do after retirement
Offer your hard-earned wisdom to benefit young people in need of guidance and encouragement, from school kids in your neighborhood to new graduates just entering the workforce. Everyone is qualified to be a mentor, and the experience is just as rewarding for the mentor as the mentee. You can do this informally with someone you know or through an organized program such as Mentoring USA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Experience Corps and New York City's Middle School Mentors program. Students, children and younger people in your industry could all benefit from your mentoring.
4. Act 2: Devote Yourself to Citizenship
As baby boomers begin retiring, some are looking back on the turbulent yet promising days of their youth, wondering what happened to their dreams of reshaping the world. Instead of winding down in retirement, today's active citizenship movement offers retirees the opportunity to apply their restless energies to the pressing needs of society. For many, the new activism may hold the answer. They can join the thousands of retirees who are shifting from the business world into the non-profit sector. They are using their talents and skills to help young people and the disadvantaged, as well as programs that support culture and the arts.
5. Become a Digital Citizen
If you are searching for ways to connect, there are thousands of worthy organizations that use the Internet to engage supporters, mobilize resources and solicit ideas. You can discover projects in your own community and around the world that excite you. You could participate in a digital forum about a public issue you care about, donate electronically to support a charity you believe in or share information about a topic you're an expert on—all for the benefit of thousands of other citizens like you.
Many not-profit organizations, citizens' networks and community groups already use the Internet to leverage their knowledge, connections and power—but many are not doing so. Take a look at the groups and causes you support, and evaluate how effective their digital presence is. If they don't have one, or if you can see ways in which their digital activities could be made more appealing, engaging and impactful, why not volunteer to research and develop those improvements? You don't need to be an expert in programming or web design. Volunteers or paid professionals with those skills can be recruited later. As long as you have imagination and a passion for the cause you're serving, you can contribute something meaningful to the project.
Jonathan Tisch is the author of Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World, The Power of We and Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough. He is co-chairman of the board and a member of the office of the president of Loews Corporation, and chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels. Tisch has appeared on The Today Show, The Early Show, Larry King Live, Charlie Rose, CNN, CNBC and Fox News Channel. He is also the host of the Emmy-nominated Bloomberg TV and Plum TV show Beyond the Boardroom.
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