Often the impact you make in a role goes beyond what you did as part of your everyday job duties.
I went thrift shopping at Volunteers of America today because I love thrifting. I needed to donate some old coffee mugs and I wanted to see if there were any cute sweaters or dresses. I love to check-in and hunt for unique clothes at the thrift store so when someone compliments me on it I can brag that I found it at a thrift store. The joys of thrifting!
I found some dresses I liked and as I was checking out, the cashier recognized me. “Oh, you’re the girl who put that TV up!” She pointed to the TV on the wall above her where a slideshow was playing.
When I worked at Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana, in an effort to educate thrifters and distinguish VOA from other for-profit thrift stores, I designed a simple slideshow to inform shoppers that VOA is a non-profit and show photos of clients who have been helped by the proceeds of the store. I took this project upon myself and volunteered to do it. After I made the PowerPoint, I came into the thrift store with a flash drive, stood up on a ladder, plugged the flash drive into the TV, fiddled with the remote and taught the store employees how to turn on the slideshow each day. I did this multiple times in our different stores, To be honest, in the moment, the slideshow felt like an annoyance to me. I had to interrupt my day, drive to the thrift store, mess with a TV when I know very little about TVs or remotes or Input buttons. Sometimes, the TV wouldn’t turn on, the remote wouldn’t work or the TV wouldn’t play my PowerPoint in the format I had saved it in. It was frustrating. I would think, “This isn’t what I signed up for. This is not my job. Someone else should be doing this!”
Older Debbie now knows that likely no one else would’ve made the slideshow and taken the time to install it. I’m now able to take a step back and see how the slideshow has endured after I left VOA. It made me happy to see that the slideshow still plays in the VOA thrift store every day.
The cashier handed my stuff to me and I looked down to see a plastic bag that I recognized. I helped design the bag, hell I even worked with the plastic supplier to get it made. I learned more than I wanted to know about how plastic bags are made and shipped!
The idea for this started as part of an innovation brainstorming session we’d had with different team members in different departments. We needed to find a way to increase thrift store donations. Someone suggested we redesign our bags. The bags could become a tool for future donations if they had our logo, phone number, tagline, website, etc. It sounded like an easy solution to change the bags at first but ended up taking about four months to complete. It was tough to juggle this bag project on top of my other duties especially when I was doing something I’d never done before. It took a lot of persistence but eventually, the thrift stores switched from generic red and white Thank You bags to branded bags, with a meaningful tagline on one side and useful information about how to donate items back to a VOA thrift store.
The impact of my time at VOA can be found not just on the website and social media. In fact, I’m not too sad if no one remembers the social media posts I made. I know I made a lasting impact by working on things outside of my stated job description. I went to meetings, listened to problems that existed, volunteered to raise my hand, thought of creative solutions, tried new ideas and worked with others to make the change happen. I was thinking about this on my drive home and I’m not one to brag but I do need to acknowledge that I did some awesome things for a non-profit that’s dedicated to helping everyone reach their full potential and achieve well being.
Every time I walk into a VOA thrift store, I’m reminded of the impact I made during my time there and I feel so proud.