Today, your path is pretty much laid out for you. You leave the familiarity of home and high school to attend a university somewhere out of your comfort zone.
You spend four years trying to make sense of all the theory and knowledge thrown at you. And all of a sudden, you're an adult and you're standing in a gymnasium holding an expensive piece of paper.
But where do you go from there? Apparently, this is the time to make something of yourself. Some people go right back into school to hide in the relative discomfort of graduate school. Others compete with the masses to score that first internship or job. A select few follow a direct path that leads towards their MBA.
An MBA is supposed to be a direct route to prosperity. Those who graduate with one should be equipped with the skills they need to earn a higher position and an even higher salary. But is an MBA the only way to prepare yourself for a better job?
A good MBA program is a good way to get ready for more responsibilities, but there are other ways to learn. One of the best ways to learn how to be a better entrepreneur is to volunteer.
Here are a few ways being a volunteer can help you create your career:
1. You learn how to serve.
Too few bosses today know what it means to really lead a team. They've read books, learned theories and practiced their ideas, but they're not always successful leaders, despite the time and energy devoted to learning.
When you volunteer, you are learning how to serve because you are giving your time to people who need it. Knowing how to serve people, whether it's a stranger in need, a program close to your heart or your team, will help you be a better, well-rounded leader.
Leading and serving go hand in hand. The best leaders are those who know how to selflessly set aside their own interests in favor of someone else.
2. You'll practice new skills.
Volunteering is all about what kind of skills you can offer to someone else in need. But people who volunteer their time rarely arrive to find themselves doing the same thing all day.
You might walk in thinking you'll be designing custom buttons. But chances are, you'll be asked to do something entirely different, possibly even something you've never done before.
Volunteering is a great way to expand your skill set and think outside the box. You may even find yourself learning skills you never knew you were interested in.
These new skills don't just push you. They inspire creativity, courage and the ability to change. All of these things are essential for future entrepreneurs.
3. You meet people from different backgrounds.
One of the most valuable skills in business is the ability to work with anyone. Top universities run expensive MBA programs and ship students around the world so they can learn to work with other people.
Traveling is a great way to experience the world, but you don't need to travel the world to learn how to work with people from all different backgrounds. Most of the time, you can do it in your own community.
Volunteering in a setting where you're working with and for people from a different cultural, economic or social background than you is one of the best things you can do to prepare for life as an entrepreneur or leader.
It teaches you how to grow to understand and appreciate how different, yet jarringly similar, two people can be. More importantly, it teaches you that those differences are a not something to be afraid of, but rather something to embrace and learn.
An MBA provides essential theory for some budding businesses, but these programs have nothing on the real-life, down-to-earth experience that volunteering offers.