how to make a difference with your job

I was sitting in an orientation with other new hires, and I wondered if everyone else felt as awkward as I did.  Our trainer was practically crying about the virtuous work we’d be doing.

“I love this work we’re doing,” she exclaimed, “we’re really helping people!”

She stopped to gaze silently at each of us, while we shifted around in our seats.  Her eyes welled, and I resisted the urge to check my watch.

“Guys, you have no idea – YET – how much of an impact we’re making here!”

Aren’t we selling perfume?  Maybe I’d come to the wrong building.

“Are we selling perfume – or are we selling… a mission?  A hope?  Are we selling BELIEF in oneself?  And BELIEF in each other?  A determination to push ourselves to success?  That’s what I’m selling, and I know it changes lives!”

People started clapping then, and I quickly joined in.  Her speech was rousing, I’d give it that. 

But it wasn’t enough to sell me.  I didn’t go back the next day.  …Or – at all. 


We want to do work that matters.  No matter what it is, we want it to make a difference for other people.  We want it to be important to other people.

I wanted to be able to tell people about what I did – and feel good about it.  Have a little rush of pride, even, when I said it.

And back then, I thought there were only certain categories of jobs that qualified.

My friends who were going to school for medical degrees would definitely be giving back; they could have that pride.  My friends in the military, or working in public safety could have it.  My friends who worked for animal shelters, or for schools, or nursing homes, or did child care, or art therapy, or music lessons could have it.

But what about me? 

What about you?   

Wouldn’t it be nice to know your work had meaning for people outside of the ones your paycheck supports?  People in your community, state, country, and beyond?  Wouldn’t it feel so good to serve a higher purpose, give to others in need, and positively impact the world? 

Most all of us want that.

And as it turns out – you can have it.  I could’ve had it selling perfume; I just didn’t know it back then. 

I could make a separate blog post about why you're already contributing to the world with your work, but I'd rather help you take even more action, and ramp up your energy, happiness, pride and fulfillment.

You could do this by yourself, and give yourself all those things, but let’s not stop at that.  Your coworkers want this too, so let’s get them involved so you can make an even bigger impact.

You’re going to find ways for all of you to give back – with this current job.  At this current job, even. 

And if you do this correctly – your employer will benefit too.

Win, win, win – like so many other things!



Rule #1:  Don’t expect your company to put itself out of business turning the business into a charity.  That won’t help anybody.  Understand that your company has to focus on its business, and on making a profit.  Don’t expect your company to get behind your efforts and put its name on any of it, or donate to it, or give you all time off for an event, or give you raises so you can donate more. 

Rule #2:  This isn’t a competition.  Don’t think that the person who involves himself the most, or donates the most, is the one who cares the most.  This should give everyone a good feeling, and a feeling of all being part of something good – no matter what level of participation each person is able to have.  There can be zero judgement, and zero hard feelings, and zero speculation about anyone who chooses not to participate.  Remember to be considerate and understanding (part of Step 6 to using your job, which you can watch here) about the fact that people make decisions based on things you will never get to see.  You don’t know what other obligations or hardships your coworkers are going through.  Do not make this a competition.  Do not judge.

Rule #3:  Follow your company’s rules.  If something you want to do at work is against them – do it at your own place if that’s allowed, or don’t do it at all.  Make sure you stay compliant with every policy and procedure, and make sure you do not make your company pay you to do anything other than what it has you there to do.


Alright!  Now we’ve got the rules down, so just follow them while you make your plan, and you can get a really great thing in place that will give back on every level. 


I’m just going to toss out some ideas to help you brainstorm.


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Find a need in the community (the homeless, a nursing home, a family, an organization or charity, etc.) and find ways to get together with your coworkers during off-time and give some time.

You could give service by putting together hygiene kits; serving meals; participating in a fundraiser race; making cards, blankets or other comforts; singing; holding hands; raising awareness in the community so a charitable cause or a need can get more support. 

There is need everywhere, so all you have to do is look around for one that you can all make a difference for together.


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Now - you will have to be aware of how you do this, and if you can.  I don’t know what it is you do for work, and whether donating your particular area of expertise – even off the clock – would do anything to violate your company’s policies, or even laws.  So please be responsible with this one, and only do what you can, if you can.

And if you can’t donate the type of work you get paid for, think of the skills you use at work that you can do good with.

You could use your writing or presentation skills to help spread awareness to a need.  You could use your creativity to make a toy, blanket, or some other comfort for someone.  You could use your organizational skills to make an event go smoothly.

Doing this one will help you to realize how much your work is important to other people, and how much you can make it have even more purpose.  Just do it with (extra) good judgement.   


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With your employer’s permission, you could keep a rotation of different donation boxes for different needs (food, clothes, baby supplies, professional clothing for homeless needing to find jobs, etc.) in your breakroom, so you can all bring in things as you’re able.

You could also post alerts about some other need in the community, and how individuals can help or drop off donations during off-time.


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Each person (who chooses to) could give a presentation to their coworkers on a cause or charity they’re passionate about. 

You could do this once a month, once a quarter, once a year – whatever works best.  You could make it a low-key thing at someone’s house, or rent out a conference room and make it an event.    


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Of the financial kind.  The best way to keep everyone’s money safe and let it be anonymous would be to share the information for donating to a certain cause and letting everyone give directly to the organization or charity themselves. 

You could put up a post in the breakroom if that’s allowed, or send information in an email (on your own time), or pass out a flyer. 

You could choose a new charity to focus on each month, quarter, year, or whatever works best.    


Those were just some ideas.  There are plenty of ways to do this and make it work for your situation. 

And I really think that the time you take to find them will give back to you