How will I know that quitting my finance job and trying something new is the right thing to do? How do I know that the idea of having a dream job isn’t just a fantasy? Is there a job that would feel just as good in reality as it feels in my head? These questions bothered me when I was questioning my career direction.
So I tried volunteering.
Volunteering helped me recognise how my dream job looks like and feels like in real life without quitting my job, losing income or making premature investments into further qualifications.
If you’d like to give volunteering a try, my tip is set your intention first before committing. What could volunteering help you with? My intention was to test my passion. Yet I got a lot more out of it. New skills.
In today’s post I will share my experience with volunteering and how it helped me to:
⚡ decide which of my passions are those I can monatise in my career,
⚡ realise that following my passion could be the scariest thing to do (contrary to the popular belief that following your passion feels easy and natural),
⚡ find my leadership style suited to my natural gifts and personality.
#1 Starting off felt a little bit messy but I trusted the power of networking
I wanted to do something fulfilling, something that would give me a sense of purpose. I wanted to collaborate with small business owners or local organisations, but I didn’t know anyone.
I started to participate in a variety of local community events and networking without having a specific outcome in mind. I joined local Southend Soup, run by Sherry Fuller. It was a local event based on Detroit Soup – a community micro-finance project where people came to present their ideas to win some funding. Here I observed how important and powerful an elevantor pitch can be.
Then I joined a community for heart-centered entrepreneurial women – Winning Women Essex – run by Rosemary Cunningham. I got a lot more out of networking than expected – inspiration from people who found the courage to follow their visions. I meet new people who shared similar passions, interests and who understood that I wanted more than just earning money. They were guided by purpose and helping others. With them I didn’t feel alone or strange questioning my career. I also heard about the common business challenges women experience so it was a good learning opportunity.
#2 The best leadership course ever – free of charge
Once at the Southend Soup, I’ve heard a pitch from the local initiative searching for volunteers to help them kick off their project. Southend In Transition Community Allotment was an initiative that converted an unused plot of land into a place where people get together to grow veggies and socialise together. I visited the plot with the founder Kamil and got hooked. There was nothing. We were both starring at an overgrown allotment with a vision.
I started to learn how to set up a blog and website on WordPress, how to publish posts for a new audience I didn’t know, but most of all, under the great support of our leader Kamil – I got to discover my leadership style! I left my job because I felt burn out from my managerial role.
Thanks to Kamil’s guidance, I unlocked my passion for leading projects and organising events. And I realised I felt good when I could help start things off and build something from scratch. I stayed with the SiT Allotment project for a couple of years, learnt how to lead in an agile way and met really great collaborative people and friends. When I moved onto further projects, I felt fulfilled from contributing. And Kamil keeps the project going still strong.
#3 The things you are great at can make you feel like running away
Sometimes following your true passion feels scary! Every volunteering taught me something, but Southend Girls project had the most transformative impact.
I was meant to volunteer as a life coach for young teenage girls. The night before the project I couldn’t sleep. I joined because I wanted to make a difference and learn about coaching. This project offered guidance. Then it happened. We had a conversation with one of my friends. He challenged how I wanted to coach without a coaching qualification. I got petrified! I nearly resigned from the project. The Head Coach was fantastic. She agreed for me step down as a coach, but she surprised me with her offer:
I stayed. That helped me to safely discover what coaching is and its transformational impact. I’ve seen young teenage girls coming from poor background in Southend explore their strengths and possibilities for education and life. That touched my heart deeply.
By the end of the course, I felt confident enough to lead a vision board session for all young ladies on the course. By then I had clarity that coaching was something I wanted to invest in! It felt incredibly good, not only in my mind. With every cell of my body I could feel the fulfilment and impact I was craving to experience.
#4 Would I be able to run a business?
Since I am a careful person, I didn’t pursue business full time. I wasn’t sure how I work at my best – whether it means starting something from scratch by myself or joining an existing organisation. I got myself to discover it and set up a local community group organising conferences and workshops for women in our neighbourhood.
It evolved around a simple idea – why admiring women in media, magazines and on TV when there are so many great women in our community. They are just as inspiring and relatable. The group expanded quickly simply by word of mouth. Together with volunteers, we organised 3 local conferences and many workshops.
We had a fantastic time listening to talks and real experiences from women we knew. Money raised from the conferences were donated to a good cause.
I learnt how to have fun while working on a project and how to give space to others to share their expertise. One of our last conferences had a fashion show where women from the audience could try sexy catwalk moves to lift their confidence. We were the real deal and had fun while empowering ourself to make positive life changes.
My key lessons came from understanding how to lead a local nonprofit organisation – from setting up, through financing and sponsorship, selling as well as bringing people together and staying focused on our mission. There were many nonprofit oganisations and if we wanted to make it financially viable, we had to put our entrepreneurial hat on. I was able to manage that thanks to many business women from our community who were passionate about helping others and our ambassadors.
With time I recognised that organising events is my hobby but it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as my career. I learnt how to build websites, got first paid client who liked my designs but I validated building websites isn’t aligned with my purpose either.
Yet what was a natural progression from the community group was the transition into career coaching and helping women discover their talents. I absolutely loved organising the workshops and qualified myself to become a coach.
Could volunteering be the reality check to test your passions?
You don’t have to spend three years volunteering, as I did. It’s entirely up to you how long you want to do it.
It doesn’t matter if you want to invest one hour a week or more. I was able to manage volunteering using 3-5 hours a week next to my job.
I see it as a great opportunity to test your ideas and passions. To validate if your dream job really feels like a dream job, before you quit the career you build so far.
If you opt for volunteering I would suggest to decide how long you want to volunteer to test your passion. You’ll find soon if your passion is your new career direction or not, therefore you don’ thave to stay in that role too long.
Do you want to turn your passion, talents and purpose into a real job but fears keep you stuck?
Reach out to me to discuss your options and how we could create a CAREER TRANSITION plan together [ HERE].
Author: AdriAna Kosovska
I work with women in 30s and 40s to help them thrive in their dream career so their career not only looks good on the outside but also feels great inside.
Certified coach, founder of ZERO TO DREAM JOB and TALENTED WOMAN
Helping unfulfilled professionals and freelancers in 30s & 40s create a rewarding career