Most Americans have to work, and often, that requires doing something that you hate — at least for a little while. Regardless of whether you enjoy your job or not, you need to work to make money in order to pay bills. Whether you love or you hate your job, most likely there are redeeming aspects of what you do.
If you are truly good at something, there’s a good chance that someone else could benefit from your hard work. Perhaps you are a teacher, a doctor, or a firefighter, and you make a difference every day, or maybe you feel like you work more behind the scenes. Either way, you can use your job to benefit others, and you don’t always have to do it because you get paid to. Here are some ways you can use your job to make a difference for someone else.
1. Work for free
Pro bono work is common, and it’s a great way to make a difference. Sometimes you can save on your taxes for qualifying expenses, which is another bonus. However, the main benefit of giving out help for free — especially to people who might not be able to afford your services otherwise — is that you will make a difference to the people you help. There are many good reasons to work pro bono; it can make you happier, healthier, and it will help you connect with other people. These advantages are the same whether you are a lawyer or you are providing free help of some other kind. As long as you are helping people, you are making a difference.
2. Remember that any help matters
Recently, CNN ran a story on Mark Bustos, a stylist who gives free haircuts to the homeless. He goes around New York, talks to people, and gives free haircuts, despite the fact that his services start at $150 when he works at his job. While donating money or providing food to fight homelessness are vital ways to make a difference, there’s something sweet about what Bustos does. While most people don’t need a haircut, it provides dignity to the person receiving it. Don’t get in the pattern of thinking that if you can’t give tons of money or your job doesn’t lend to some heroic deed that your help won’t matter; any help matters. Sometimes acts that seem small make a huge difference.
3. Teach someone something
While giving out free services is a great way to help other people, you can also help others by teaching them a valuable skill. If you can teach someone how to be more efficient in their own lives, you will be providing an invaluable service. While your job might be very specific, most likely, there are aspects of it that would benefit people who don’t work in your field. If you are a financial planner, consider offering a free class on maintaining a budget or other financial matters. If you are a doctor, in addition to providing free medical care, you can teach people how to live healthier lives. Whatever your career, there are probably valuable lessons you could teach others.
4. Make helping others your career
You don’t have to choose a career that involves directly helping others every day in order to make a difference. However, you certainly can. There are many different jobs that help people, and many you may have never even considered. Social workers, doctors, firefighters, police officers, and teachers certainly make a difference, but so do other nonprofit workers, occupational therapists, people in development, scientists, and nurses (and many of these jobs can pay very well).
So if you want to make a difference every day, consider a career that allows you to regularly help others. If you really want to make a difference, you can still offer to help others for free in addition to your daily work, but even if you get paid to help others, you are truly making a difference if you are really helping people.
5. Change your attitude
Although most of these ideas involve truly using your skills to directly help others, even an attitude change can make a difference. If you hate your job or you frequently disagree with your coworkers, take the time to try and look at things in a different light. Try to be happier at work, and be kinder to your coworkers and your customers. As small as it sounds, you really can make a difference if you treat others with respect and kindness. Sometimes a kind word or action can turn someone’s day around. Plus, the better attitude you have at work, the more open you may be to determining just how you can make a difference in your job. Even if you aren’t out there saving lives, you can help someone else have a better day, and that does make a difference.
While getting paid is great, making a difference is really important, and it can be equally (or much more) rewarding than a paycheck. So take some time to think about how you could use your job to make a difference for the people around you. Maybe you will even find out that you can use your own skills to start a charity of your own.