Rarely does anyone achieve success alone. In fact, I think it’s nearly impossible to do so, and probably pretty lonely too. Most people build their careers by working with people who are more experienced, learning to see and maximize opportunities, and how to rebound from missteps.
Personally, I think that giving back and helping others not only honors where we came from, but gives us ongoing opportunities to learn and make a difference.
Some of the most satisfying moments I’ve had lately are from working with people and organizations that benefit from my expertise. And not that they hold sacred the information as “Paul’s word;” rather, they use and adapt and apply that knowledge in their own work in a new, helpful way. So I want to share with you a few of my favorite ways to give back to the community and keep it growing and moving forward.
I can’t imagine what my professional life would be like without E-Learning Heroes! The work and discussion threads that people have shared over the years have been invaluable to my professional growth. They opened my eyes to new ways to work better and smarter. I don’t know if the people who shared their work knew the impact they had on me, but I sure felt it.
As a result, I make it a practice to share my work back with the community. I like sharing my finished work, the tidy projects I’m proud of—but I also make a point of sharing work in progress which isn’t always polished but might show an interesting piece of a process or technique… or simply what not to do! When deciding what and whether to share, I look through the lens of a newbie and ask myself, “What about this could be useful to someone?” Because, if nobody had shown me “the guts” of their work, my learning curve as an e-learning designer would have been much, much longer.
When I get stuck, or just wonder how someone did something, I find that working one-on-one helps me get the answers I seek. Whether those people know it or not, they’re acting as mentors to me to help me along.
It can be a simple conversation or a more formal arrangement—in any case, mentoring is integral to growth. And having people who are willing to take the time is key. Whenever I can, I try to be accessible if people have questions or need help. It’s so satisfying to see the moment when it clicks for someone! And you know what? I usually learn something new too.
So often, when you’re growing your business, it’s tempting to focus strictly on professional applications for your skills. And with a practical benefit: you get paid! But there are so many organizations that need help and support and can offer fantastic opportunities for project experience—even if they can’t pay you for your work.
One of my first big e-learning projects was for Morning Tears, a global organization that provides assistance to the children of incarcerated adults. I approached this project every bit as I would a professional one, putting in the time and effort to plan and deliver at every turn. I could see my skills progress throughout. In the end, both the organization and I were delighted with the training materials we created. That gave me a lot of confidence, as well as great contacts in my network; and, Morning Tears was able to dramatically increase the number of children it was able to help, thanks to this e-learning project. It was a win-win all around.
As I’ve said before, I realize that my experience is not the only way to grow your business, and these are not the only ways you can give back to the community. These are simply the things I’ve done that helped me to grow my business tremendously along the way. I hope they’ve been helpful to give you ideas to try or adapt for your own professional journey. Good luck, stay open to learning and sharing, and have fun!