I was recently asked by a young scholar if he should pursue a job that will barely cover his needs or a voluntary post which would put him consistently in the room with decision makers and leaders in his area of interest. It is the never-ending question for entrepreneurs. Which comes first?
A job which does not meet your basic needs is a confidence killer. Not all volunteering positions are created equal. Evaluate if the gains from investing time, energy, and your network will be worth the rewards. It is worth the risk to go with the voluntary post, if you’ve got a friend or family willing to let you sleep on their couch for six months as you knock on doors and leverage the heck out of every opportunity to be a part of the relevant conversations and add your input.
Don’t assume simply being in the room with influencers will be enough. What did you show up with? I don’t mean your business card. I don’t mean your Instagram feed full of photos with the star of the moment. What will make them remember you? What problem are you able to solve for the people in the room? What solution can they help you resolve?
Be ready to add value and support, not simply take.
How does a conversation turn into a paid gig? How does the photo become the catalyst for something more? How will your six months of volunteerism position you for the business or next job you will take?
Show up at the door with clarity on what you have to offer and how the people in the room can be served by you. Then go do it!