Before I ever had a job, I worked in a cubicle.

When I was 15 I started to volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Association, a non-profit that focuses on the care and support of those impacted by brain dementia. A few times a week during my summer vacations, I worked with the Events Team to organize the biggest fundraiser of the year, The Walk To End Alzheimer’s.

Although I was managing paperwork, engaging with clients, and dealing with partners just like everyone else in the office, I was unpaid. To a lot of my peers, this seemed incredibly unusual. While I watched my friends play outdoors in the sun by the beach, I threw on my business casual attire and sat through traffic to go to work…for free.

Promise Garden Flowers spin in the wind to showcase support for those with Alzheimer's.

Promise Garden Flowers spin in the wind to showcase support for those with Alzheimer's.

I can’t deny that there were some days where I was longing to be like the average teen, basking in three months without responsibilities. But now that I look back, I don’t regret a minute of it. I kept going because it was the most rewarding thing that I had done all of my life.

My dad passed away due to early onset Alzheimer’s disease when I was 16. He was just 49 years old. I spent my early teenage years acting as a caretaker for him alongside my mom and older brother as his brain deteriorated.  I have a personal connection to Alzheimer’s that will stay true my whole life. Watching my dad fall ill gave me a pain in my heart that words can’t describe. I used volunteer service to channel my grief into something productive. The work that I did made me feel like I was honoring my dad. I wanted to do my part to make sure that no one else would have to go through what my family went through.

While these emotional benefits were what kept me moving, something that I didn’t realize until I entered the paid workforce was how my experience volunteering would impact my work life. My volunteerism changed the way that I looked at “work”.

I came into the office not because I had to but instead because I wanted to. I genuinely enjoyed working. When I volunteered, it couldn’t be about the paycheck or the promotion; it was instead about the passion behind the work. My experience working for want trained me to want to work. Working gave me goals and aspirations, challenging me to learn and grow. It left me feeling accomplished and rewarded. What mattered most was that I enjoyed what I was doing and that it made me enthusiastic.

The most valuable thing that you can donate is your time. There will always be a way to get involved in something interesting regardless of how much experience you have with the topic at hand. Even if you only have minimal time to give, the gain from that engagement is multifaceted. Giving to your community will give back to you by building your knowledge and wisdom, helping you to succeed not only in your personal life but also in the workplace.

Now, at 19, I am still volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association. Although I’m instead spending my summer vacation interning at Weber Marketing Group, I’m not choosing between paid and unpaid work. Instead, I’m letting each embrace the other.

I am now part of the Board of Directors for The Washington State and Northern Idaho Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.  The knowledge that I’ve gained here at Weber Marketing has helped me with my contribution as a director. I’m able to engage in conversations regarding target audience and help brainstorm around web advertising issues. When I walk into board meetings, I feel exponentially more confident with my knowledge from this internship under my belt.

Volunteering does not only aid your energy in the office but also your coworkers’ energy. Ambition is contagious.

Alternatively, I am able to apply this sense of dedicated passion to my duties at Weber. Even though I am simply an intern, I put my all into the things I do. I want to dive into every project headfirst. Instead of dreading work, I find myself excited to engage and energized enough to work efficiently and effectively every day. One of the great things about this office is that I know that it isn’t just me.

Even a simple search of the blog posts on Weber Marketing’s webpage shows the company’s value of the intersection between working and living. There are numerous blogs written by employees about culture showcased online. With mentions of animal shelter activism, sports passions, charity challenges, donation collections and more, it is obvious how much Weber Marketing values the happiness and involvement of their workers.

In turn, this culture can be felt in the office. This respect for extracurricular activities helps build a sense of community and activates a positive feedback loop. Volunteering does not only aid your energy in the office but also your coworkers’ energy. Ambition is contagious. This morale spreads as employees help to support the causes their coworkers are spirited about. The result of all of this support is increased company loyalty and a feeling of office unity.

Evidently, there is a shift toward a positive office atmosphere when you involve yourself in extracurricular activity. Getting involved in things you are passionate about can build both personal and work life satisfaction. My experiences with both the Alzheimer’s Association and Weber Marketing have helped me apply this concept and generate a feeling of fulfillment when working.

As I move from cubicle to cubicle (or hopefully from cubicle to a grand office with a view) throughout my career, I will carry this sensation with me. I will always be an advocate for volunteerism. Work life happiness and success is multiplied when you expose yourself to new things and hold a willingness to learn. Extracurricular activities are an easy way to give yourself this benefit and also better your community. Why not get involved?

Shameless plug: Start getting involved today! Click here to visit my fundraising page for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.” All donations are greatly appreciated.