You’re the sort of person we’re looking for…

I didn’t get involved with disaster relief to improve my customer service skills, but…

In a job interview with Amazon I was asked: “We pride ourselves on customer service. Can you tell me about a time when you exemplified customer service?”

My response: “Absolutely. Let me tell you about an experience I had as a volunteer with the Red Cross in New York City, on a disaster relief call in the South Bronx, by myself at 1 am with a family who had just seen their house destroyed.”

Before I got a chance to tell the rest of the story, my interviewer interrupted: “Wow. If you survived that experience, you’re the sort of person we’re looking for.”

I’m not the exception. Many of my friends and colleagues in volunteer organizations got far more out of the experience personally and professionally than the efforts they invested… and some of us invested a lot.

A few things that I find fascinating about the “selfish” value of volunteering:
  • Managers who say things like “I’ll interview anyone who applies for a position with [Peace Corps/Red Cross/Engineers Without Borders] on their résumé.”
  • Colleagues who have turned a hobby or side hustle into a vocation
  • Professionals who used volunteer work to fill in ‘gaps’ or enhance their experience en route to their dream jobs
  • Finding career opportunities based on experience or connections gained while working for free

    Those are just a few of the ideas I plan to explore here, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

Working for free could be the most valuable thing you’ll ever do for yourself and your career… and that’s an idea worth exploring. 

What do you think?