On being useful

ToolboxIt’s Saturday afternoon and I’m slightly disgruntled by the lousy weather today – spring seems to be playing hide and seek at the moment. It didn’t stop me going to beach volleyball again this morning, for the first time since late last year. I didn’t really want to go but I’d booked a space so dragged myself out. I’m still terrible at it, in case you were wondering. But I did enjoy it, and it was good to get out.

I’ve had a pretty intense week. My Albany days in particular were quite exhausting , although mainly in a good way. I ran a focus group with my volunteer team on Tuesday afternoon, went out with them afterwards and then did a training session for some of them the next morning. They are all absolutely amazing people, I’m very lucky. They seemed to appreciate the chance to give feedback about the project they work on, and chatting to them in a non-work setting afterwards allowed me to get to know them a bit better. I’ve had some lovely comments from them, which has made me feel a little more confident as I am totally just learning as I go on the people management front. Even though it’s not quite the same as being someone’s line manager in a traditional work context, this is the first time I’ve had formal line management responsibility and I am learning SO much from it.

Delivering the training session was particularly gratifying. It was just a simple session about the best way to convey the volunteer experience on your CV, but it went down a treat. Building people’s confidence is very rewarding, and the least we can do really given the fact they give up their whole Tuesday for free each week. I did a brief stint as an ESOL teacher in a distant past (that’s English for Speakers of Other Languages, for my non-British readers) and a lot of the basics of lesson planning and delivery seem to have stuck. Good to be able to use those skills again for such a receptive audience.

After being so ‘switched on’ for three days, the two days working from home on Thursday and Friday allowed me to go into a more quiet space. Pot of tea, Mozart on the stereo, comfy slippers, all very civilised. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about being a consultant, but it’s really fun and satisfying. I met with the client in Hove on Friday morning to run through the campaign plan I’d put together, and they were very pleased with the strategy. It was a productive meeting and we all felt energised as a result.

Amazingly, I’ve since had two more crowdfunding-related enquiries, at least one of which might lead to more work in that area. If I can fit it in, that is: I’m actually fully booked until mid-May. I sort of knew crowdfunding was a marketable skill, but to have people contact you asking for advice is quite strange. I’m not sure that I want to dedicate the rest of my life to other people’s crowdfunding campaigns, but I’m so far enjoying my first stint as a consultant and feel very lucky to have had work pretty much thrown into my lap.

It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, I was still putting on my work skirts and heels to go to a job that took way more energy than it ever gave back. I’m not saying that my current work is always easy or fun, but having someone tell you that your training session made them realise how valuable their volunteer work is, or that you’ve made them feel newly energised about their project, makes all the challenging bits completely worthwhile. I suppose it boils down to being, well, useful. And I certainly feel a lot more useful, or at least useful in a more satisfying way, than I ever did before.

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