Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

The best career move you can make might just be outside the office

There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of things you can say and do to get ahead at work, all of them meant to be implemented during working hours.

But one of the most powerful career-enhancing strategies that I know can only be implemented in your free time: Namely, volunteering for a cause you love.

Go with me here.

I get it; when your career trajectory is in high gear, the last thing you're usually thinking about is finding a few hours on the weekend to walk dogs at a local Humane Society, give museum tours, or teach reading at a homeless shelter.

In the first years of my career, I usually worked Saturdays, either at home or at the office, and found excuses to watch a lot of TV on Sundays. I didn't call it that then, but without a doubt, I was decompressing, which is not only a good thing. It's a necessary thing.


    Author and business journalist Suzy Welch.
    Author and business journalist Suzy Welch.

    That said, I did make time every week to spend a couple of hours with the 12-year-old girl who I'd been matched with through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami.

    We'd get pizza, or catch a movie, or just walk around Coconut Grove, taking in the sights. Her family was complicated, and her brief life story was like none I'd ever encountered. She thought I was (at the grand old age of 22) a font of knowledge, but she taught me things about identity and resilience that shook, and shaped, my worldview.

    And that's the point. Volunteering doesn't just open your heart, it opens your mind. It enlarges what you know, and who you know, and how you make sense of experiences and events. In many cases, in can give you a third dimension you probably didn't know you were missing.


    In all cases, it softens you to the human condition.

    You cannot not bring that quality back to work, where being wiser, deeper, and more rounded can only make you better at relationships, and just about everything you do.

    Look, I'm not suggesting you start volunteering in order to get ahead at work. That's just soulless and mercenary — in a word, yuck.

    You should volunteer for a cause you love because the world will be a better place if you help someone — anyone, or any creature — who needs help.

    But know, as you give away your time and energy, that the psychic return doesn't stop when you walk back into work.

    It grows, and so do you.

    Suzy Welch is a CNBC contributor and the author of several best-selling business books, including "10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea," "The Real Life MBA" and "Winning."

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