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Volunteering as a Career Move


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What if there was a way to do something you love every single day while earning an income from it? For this week’s Motivational Mondays guest, getting paid for your passions isn’t just possible — it’s probable, as long as you have the time to explore all the career opportunities available for you. That’s why Anna Taylor founded The Greater Sum, a private operating foundation whose mission is to support innovation in the nonprofit sector while helping volunteers develop the resumés they need to advance in their dream careers.

Taylor and The Greater Sum support the creation of networks of people with varying skills, building diverse networks that are “greater than the sum of [their] parts.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn all about this new model for supporting charity, why we need a better approach to career development, and how following your dreams can actually be a way to help other people.

Accomplishing More, Together

As the famous quote from Aristotle goes, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” It’s that transformational kind of wisdom that ultimately inspired Taylor to create her organization. Since its launch, The Greater Sum Foundation has built a network of early-stage nonprofit founders driven by passion, donors who want to make a difference, and volunteers with valuable skills who want to build their portfolios and resumés while making a positive impact. When Taylor’s organization brings these individuals together, magic happens, exemplifying Aristotle’s vision.

Due to her comprehensive background in the non-profit sector, Taylor understands that the skills needed to launch a new venture are not always the same as the skills needed to develop a marketing strategy, run an HR department, or find financing. The Greater Sum is a way to remove these roadblocks by bringing in talent who already have those skills and want to do something positive with them. At the same time, the volunteers gain marketable work experience.

Career Development Through Doing

Over a decade before Taylor started The Greater Sum, she had another career in college readiness training. One thing she noticed then was how students set their career goals based on what they’ve already seen or experienced — and that could prevent them from reaching their full potential.

“There are so many niche or exclusive areas [of expertise] that a lot of people just don’t know what they don’t know,” says Taylor. “So kids go into college with a major that is based on what people have told them [they should do]. ‘You got to be a doctor. You got to be a lawyer.’ [But] when you kind of open up that complexity of all the things that are available, students say ‘I had no idea that this was a path that would not only generate income, [but also] fill my heart and tap into my talents.’” In that way, volunteering with The Greater Sum doesn’t just benefit the nonprofits being served — it creates structure for people to explore new types of work and careers they otherwise might not have known existed.

Building Real World Experience Through Skills-Based Volunteering

Another benefit of The Greater Sum’s volunteer program is that it can help participants further develop the skills they learn in school through practical application, allowing them to gain experience that will help them succeed in the job market. Traditional volunteering places people in frontline roles to provide on-the-ground support for charities in the field. Skills-based volunteering, on the other hand, positions volunteers to work in alignment with their background or passions, gaining valuable experience while nonprofits benefit from higher level, specialized expertise.

For people just entering the workforce who only have university-related exercises in their repertoire, this real-world experience can help them stand out to employers and strengthen professional skills. “When you work with a [real] nonprofit, you have that client-facing experience where you have to say, ‘What do you need? What are you trying to accomplish?’” explains Taylor. Skills-based volunteering replicates the same kind of conditions people will encounter in the workplace, and better prepares them for employment — both in terms of how they show up for their responsibilities, and how employers value them.

Want to learn more about the power of volunteering? Listening to the Motivational Mondays episode with Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

[1:13] The inspiration for The Greater Sum
[4:33] Why diverse experiences are so important to career development
[7:41] The pros and cons of taking a gap year before college
[10:32]  Skills-based vs. traditional volunteering
[15:20] How to maximize the internship experience for both intern and organization
[18:50] The future of The Greater Sum foundation after SCOTUS’ repeal of affirmative action
[26:20] How Taylor’s organization matches students with opportunities

Listen to the bonus episode to learn how developing soft skills can help Gen Z start their careers on the right foot, and why it’s important for senior employees to stay open to the next generation’s unique approach to work.



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