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volunteers-601662_640Volunteering is a wonderful thing to do to boost your skills and help others, but did you know it can also boost your career? While you may not necessarily be getting paid for your volunteer work, it can still provide you with valuable knowledge of your particular industry as well as create quality references to fall back on during your personal and professional career.

Personal development is greatly enhanced giving you the opportunity to learn new skills or maintain and develop existing skills. Helping others can have a great impact on yourself and others and improve your self-esteem and sense of achievement. Volunteering can also bring people together from diverse and cultural backgrounds that you may not have the opportunity to meet in your regular day to day activities.

And of course, volunteering is not just for individuals. Businesses can also reap the rewards such as strengthening team bonds, increased morale, and of course, don’t forget good old fashioned fun.

Offering pro bono work is another way to offer your volunteer services in your own industry. Neo-philanthropist and entrepreneur Matthew Manos developed a “double-half” methodology – a 50% pro-bono business model that will have a great impact on your business and on you as an individual. Working on a volunteer project is also likely to make you more innovative, creative and resourceful – great qualities that can enhance your approach to business.

Perhaps you have the potential to take volunteers within your own organisation  Most volunteers won’t mind what they do as long as they feel their contribution is useful so by not accepting their help you could be overlooking a valuable resource. Or perhaps a retired business professional might be a great option to consider.

Anytime of the year is a great time to volunteer, and, more so around the holiday season. Whatever your reason for doing so, there are plenty of ways to give back to the community, without emptying your bank account. Depending on what it is you want to do, or whom you want to support, there is likely to be a lot of opportunity for you.

Whether you are seeking to volunteer or are taking volunteers, the relationships you create during these experiences will be the most memorable. Positive rewarding experiences are yours for the taking and with anything, today is a great day to start.

I found this clip by accident this week and as I watched it, I was moved by its power. If you have goals, if you want to make changes in your life, you need to watch this.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. I’d love to hear your reaction.

female-850599_640If you have considered volunteering for the charity you support, you probably have one or more reasons to do so. While one of the most common reasons why people become volunteers is to try and make a difference by committing their time, helping a charity offers many other benefits – meeting new people and making friends, spending your time in a pleasurable manner (especially if you volunteer to do something you enjoy) and, of course, gaining valuable experience, all of which can help significantly boost your career.

When it comes to volunteering in a field that is closely related to your area of study or work, the experience you gain can be crucial for finding a job or progressing in your career. While you are not usually getting paid for your hours of volunteer work, it is still a serious, relevant work that will boost your experience, provide you with knowledge of the particular industry and with lots of insight into how things are done.

Of course, volunteering is often about working in team – a skill every employer will appreciate. However, while excelling at team work, volunteers are often expected to be responsible on their own, and to learn to be self-organised, initiative and motivated. Volunteering can teach you all that – after all, it will be your part- or full-time job for a certain period of time, during which you will be expected to apply your relevant knowledge to the ongoing tasks and projects and to do your best in what you have decided to help with.

In addition to teaching you transferable skills and providing you with extensive knowledge and experience, volunteering can also help you make important connections – both within the field you plan to work in and in other fields. Have in mind that when applying for a job, you will usually be asked to provide one or two names who can write a reference upon request. Therefore, if you perform well at your chosen NFP or charity, you might easily find that well-known specialists in the area you are working will be happy to give you a reference because they have worked with you on a certain project and are satisfied with your work. Remember that well-established professionals and leaders in their field often spend some time volunteering or working pro bono, so being a volunteer yourself might help you meet such people and turn them into important connections.

All in all, volunteering can really boost your career. It can provide you with the necessary work experience and knowledge to improve your CV, meet you with people who can guide you and help you progress in your chosen field, and teach you valuable skills like time-management, self-organisation and discipline. However, have in mind that, in order for volunteering to be a useful and enjoyable experience, you will need to like what you are doing – so choose wisely. When choosing an organisation to volunteer for and your role within it, think if it is what you actually want to do and if you will be able to do your best while spending your time at it. If not – maybe you need to spend more time looking for a volunteering position. Happy volunteering in 2016!

card-1081735_640Starting a new year provides the opportunity to start afresh and open up new possibilities for yourself. One of the fundamental factors we generally forget to take into consideration, though, is that a new year doesn’t necessarily mean a new you is going to appear magically. You still take your usual self into it.

Alas, if we really want to make something of it, and benefit from the opportunity for a new beginning, or to do things in new ways, or even be a new you, then making resolutions is a good start.

If you are genuinely interested in achieving all those things you’ve stated as your resolutions; the standard lose weight, eat healthier foods, stop procrastinating, or whatever it is you’ve resolved to do, then there are three resolutions you need to make.

These three resolutions are the cornerstone for helping all your other resolutions come to fruition, and are the foundation for growth, success and an impressive 2016.

Personal Development

Agree with yourself to work on yourself. Whether you do this in the form of reading books from renowned personal development coaches, attend some seminars or courses, or follow some e-learnings, this is a must.

Improving yourself will allow you to understand what it is that’s been holding you back, and give you the tools and power to move forward. You can apply these learnings to those more tangible, measurable goals and resolutions; like the losing weight, or writing 1000 words per day.

Practice Mindfulness

This fits in neatly with improving your personal self. Being fully aware of the situations you’re in, how you’re feeling, why you’re doing what you are doing, enables you to consider how you will react to whatever is that’s going on.

Whether this is yet another uncomfortable interaction with a colleague, or you’re sitting on the couch, avoiding physical activity, you are given the power to take alternative action. You can choose to react to your colleague differently, or get up and go for that walk like you said you would.

Speaking of sitting on the couch, practicing quiet mindfulness, in a meditative way, is also of great benefit. Practice doing nothing on a daily basis. Make sure it’s a productive sort of doing nothing, though.

Awareness of Others

This is a tough one for a lot of people to grasp fully. We generally understand the concept of “walking in another person’s shoes”, but take this one step further, and practice it daily.

Again, it ties in with the other two, so you do not have to do too much extra work each day!

As you practice mindfulness, be aware of you’re the thoughts that pop into your head when you see a person; how they’re dressed, what they’re doing, how they’re behaving. What are you thinking?

When you’re confronted by a person, rather than considering walking in their shoes, think about what may be driving them to do what they’re doing in that moment. Ironically, many of us are quite happy to defend our actions by saying “I had a bad night’s sleep” or “I was rushed because the train was late”, but rarely, if ever, do they afford the same courtesy to others.

Consider the driving forces before you react. And while you’re at it, make communication skills part of your personal development!

As with all goals and resolutions, making them is nowhere near enough. Anyone can say something; it’s taking the action that will do the trick.

christmas-998131_640

‘Tis the season to be jolly” and take a break, wind down and refresh.

It can be a struggle to refocus once you return to work for obvious reasons. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours isn’t half as much fun as laying in the sun with a good book, or watching DVDs in your pyjamas. But getting your groove back is a necessity, and there are a few tips to help with the transition from beach to office.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

That first morning you wake to the alarm is going to be hard, so try not to be tempted to stay in bed too long and go into work at the last minute. Some time alone to regroup, check voice messages, open any mail and start on the inbox, before the rest of the team arrives, will help you feel organised and in control. Your first week back can be hectic, so this isn’t the week to schedule important meetings or commence big projects. Try to catch up on tasks left over from before your break and leave the hard stuff until next week.

Share your holiday stories with your co-workers and reconnect before you return to the business of goals and targets. How often do we hear people say they felt like they never relaxed and that the holiday is a distant memory within days of returning. Relish the memories of the sun, or the snow, depending how you spent the holidays, so you can knuckle down and work towards the next adventure!

Get back into a routine, or if you don’t have one, take the opportunity to create new habits. If you feel fresher in the morning, this might be the ideal time to work on new projects, make sales calls or tackle the jobs where you need extra concentration. Afternoons might be best used for administrative tasks that require less creativity. While you are playing catch up, it can be tempting to push hard, not take breaks and stay back late. Make sure you eat lunch every day, preferably at the same time, and leave on time if you can. Organisation and a fresh focus will be your friend.

Touch base with your co-workers on any joint projects, and see what work is outstanding or requires a higher priority. Getting your bearings will help you identify where to start and what direction you need to focus your energy, which is just the boost you need.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Simple pleasures will help you make the holiday feeling last, especially on your first day back. Pick up a coffee from your favourite café on the way into work, or pack yourself a special lunch. Returning to work doesn’t have to happen with a thud.

If you over-indulged over the break, as we often do, getting active, taking a walk before work or even at lunch, or hitting the gym to start the day will help restart and re-energise your mind as well as your body.

Returning to work after a break is inevitable, so you might as well embrace it and enjoy the fresh start. Every extra day is one day closer to your next break so why not start planning now. We work to live not live to work!

gift-553150_640Christmas is around the corner, and this would be a really jolly thought if all the presents were sorted. You have probably got something, or at least decided, what to get for your closest friends and family. However, there are still your colleagues to take care of – the people you spend a very significant part of your day with. They might grind your gears at times, but they are there for you when you need it, and some of them will surprise you for Christmas, even if the present is just a symbolic one. Time is flying, but worry not! – we have a selection of great presents your mates at work will just love!

A Spider Catcher 

Do you have that one colleague who is terrified of spiders? You help them dispose of the furry creatures when you are at the office, but what if you are gone? The spider catcher would be a great gift for them; not only is it thoughtful as you show you have really tried to find something relevant, but it will also come in handy – both for the colleague and for the spider, which doesn’t actually get hurt as it is safely released outside.

Instant Irish Accent Breath Spray 

This is another fun gift idea for a working mate with a sense of humour. It is perfect for the following types of colleagues: ones proud of their Irish ancestry and often mentioning it; ones that like the Irish accent; and ones that can actually do a pretty good Irish accent – this will just help brush up their act. Just bear in mind two things: firstly, it would be less funny if your colleague gets offended so make sure you know they won’t; and secondly – the spray is a novelty product and won’t actually make people speak in an Irish accent, but it will leave a nice spearmint flavour in their mouth.

Electric Shock Pen

This is one amazing and really funny gift and any prank-oriented colleague will just love it. And the best things about the electric shock pens are that they are: 1. found in many forms and variations; 2. also used as normal pens; 3. very affordable. A good way to give this gift is to actually prank them, and when they realise what has happened and how cool it is, tell them this is their gift. Then just sit back and watch everyone at the office getting pranked. Just make sure your boss never finds out whose idea it was!

A Magic 8-Ball

Last but not least, a classic idea – the original Magic 8-Ball! ‘Will I get a raise?’ – ‘Don’t count on it!’. ‘Will I get fired?’ – ‘Better not tell you now!’. If only we could program the ball to give these exact answers to these particular questions! While we can’t do that, you can be sure that a Magic 8-Ball will always be received with gratitude. And while you are at it, why don’t you get one for yourself?

These are only a few ideas for a great Christmas gift for your colleagues. There are many more out there – just have a look and you will be amazed. Let your imagination guide you this Christmas – the gift is in the giving.

To err is human, and it is through our mistakes and failures we learn the most, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make the best decisions we can.

Effective decision-making can be developed, just like every other business or personal skill, and the ability to make consistently sound choices will set you apart regardless of your role or level, whether you are paid or a volunteer.

Using a few simple strategies, you can improve your problem-solving skills and minimise the chances of making a less than ideal decision. And when you do, you can live with the consequences, whatever they may be.

Think 100 times before you take a decision, but once that decision is taken, stand by it as one man.”

– Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Don’t procrastinateIf a decision is particularly tough, it can be tempting to put it off on the basis you need time to think it over, or at least that is the story you tell yourself. It’s true that it may take some time to research and review to make difficult decisions well, but delaying unnecessarily is not helpful. Consider the pros and cons, make a list if that helps, forecast the consequences and then act.

Don’t make it personal Ego driven and emotional decisions are rarely good ones. Being personally invested can and will cloud your judgement. Objectivity is more important than personal gain when it comes to good decision making.

Get a second opinion – You are not the first person to face this kind of situation, and you probably won’t be the last. Why not ask someone more experienced and learn from their mistakes instead of making your own? If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. Being self-aware and seeking advice makes you stronger, not vulnerable.

Check your facts – When it comes to collecting information to make a decision, it’s unlikely you will ever get the complete picture, which is ok. Your aim is to make the best decision based on the information that is available to you, so the key is to make sure the data you use is the best it can be. Seek feedback from stakeholders where appropriate, and consult tried and trusted sources if you want your end results to improve.

Anticipate the worst – Expect the best possible result. We never plan to fail, but consider the consequences of the worst case scenario as a result of your decision. If you can live with that, then the risk is acceptable. If you can’t, you may need to start at the beginning and review where you can make changes.

“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

– Japanese Proverb

Some decisions will always be made at gut instinct level, and some of the time they will be right. There will always be a place for these kind of judgements, especially when an immediate response is required. In fact, sometimes gut instinct is all you have. However the risk in these situations are higher. Collecting information and reviewing the options and consequences in a clear and structured manner in a sound framework will always be safer and more consistent.

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