Last Friday evening I volunteered at the River Food Pantry, the busiest food pantry in my county. The pantry distributes 30 thousand pounds of food to 600 families per week—I think I personally distributed about 1000 pounds of it, as I was in charge of giving out cabbages.
My cabbage volunteer experience taught me many lessons about life and even resumes. Here’s some of what I learned:
- I *do* have time in my life for volunteering, and it feels good. All it takes is putting it in my calendar. This time it helped that a group of friends all decided to volunteer on the same day. Volunteering is even more fun as a community and when you can go out with friends afterward! (Maybe you are procrastinating something that would get done if you put it in your calendar and/or made a group experience out of it?)
- When there are small cabbages and big cabbages, most people do not want the big cabbages. But when there are only big cabbages, people take the big ones. Of course some people simply don’t like cabbage. But if you’re interested in cabbage, the desirability of any given one is all in your perspective. (It is your job to make yourself or your product look desirable when compared to all the other choices around it.)
- When told, “You can have one of everything on this table,” (a table filled with berries, pumpkins and potatoes in addition to heads of cabbage) people often skip over the cabbage. But when asked, “Would you like a cabbage?” most people will take a cabbage. And when further offered, “A nice big one?” most people will take a big one. This phenomenon reminded me of how simple our minds are. Put whatever you want people to notice in front of their noses; draw their attention to it and they will probably bite. We humans are so suggestible. (This strategy works on resumes too!)
- People like variety. On a cart to my right there were packs of cut watermelon. No one was taking them. But when they were placed on a table next to packs of blackberries and people were told they could choose two things, they chose variety: one watermelon and one blackberry instead of 2 blackberries. The watermelon, previously unwanted, flew off the shelves. (Workplaces and colleges look for variety too. You might be the right fit just because you are different!)
- People like things that look pretty. About an hour into my shift, I decided to start cleaning up the cabbages, taking off the outer leaves, before offering them to customers. The number of cabbage takers increased significantly. (Can you see an implication for your job search and marketing documents here?)
- I like to finish what I started. Even after my friends had completed their tasks, I found it impossible to leave with them until I had given out cabbages to the last patron. I’m sure someone else could have peeled cabbage leaves just as well as I did, but for some reason I felt I needed to see my job through to the end. And so I did.
Do you have a tradition of volunteering at holiday time? I’d love to hear what it is! And perhaps this year you can use the occasion as a way to learn some life lessons as well as spread holiday cheer.