Every once in a while it’s good to take stock of your life and ask “what am I doing?”

Life is ever changing so we should always be looking for ways to grow and gain new perspectives. I asked myself this same question about a year ago as I was evaluating my own goals and thinking about what type of person I wanted to become, professionally and personally. Working in the advertising industry can be hectic and it’s sometimes difficult to hit pause and think about where you’ve been, how hard you worked to get to where you are now, and where you think you’ll be heading. However, there seems to be a trend making Flexible Time Off (FTO) more common, turning the thought of taking time off and taking stock into less of a taboo.

All in all, things were pretty great for me a year ago. I was feeling satisfied at work and at home with loved ones but there was still something missing. After some digging, I realized that I had gotten wrapped up in my own professional and personal life, and had forgotten about one of the things that I’ve always been passionate about – charity work. Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of trying to get the professional and personal sorted out, the bigger picture fell to the wayside.

Through all that, though, I landed myself at an agency that also cared about big-picture thinking. All employees at Pitch have FTO so they can make time for themselves to nurture their interests outside work. Everyone knows that happier employees make for better work. But research shows that volunteering specifically has massive benefits for both employee and company.  A 2016 Deloitte Study surveyed respondents that had the ability to either directly influence hiring or indirectly influence the person making the hiring decision at companies in 13 major U.S. metropolitan cities. In the survey, 80 percent of respondents reported that active volunteers moved into leadership roles more easily, and 92 percent of respondents reported that volunteering expanded an employee’s professional skill set and grew qualities such as character and strong communication.

Some soul therapy, and developing my skill set? Returning to my volunteer roots was a no brainer.

During my time of self-reflection, it just so happened that one of my close friends was involved with a great local non-profit organization that was planning an international volunteer trip. They were looking for a few dedicated souls to join them for a two-week excursion in Myanmar. Thinking that the universe works in mysterious ways, and having the promise of FTO in my corner, I jumped at the fortuitous opportunity.

It was no vacation. In our last few days we were tasked with building two bamboo huts, all by hand. We had only a few tools, couldn’t speak the language, and received no professional instruction. But relying on basic ingenuity, problem solving skills and extensive non-verbal communication, we were able to work together and give these families new homes.

Returning to work, I felt like I’d been gone for a lifetime, but I was refreshed and ready to tackle whatever came my way. I had received incredible support for pursuing my passion from my bosses, as the people I worked under knew just as well as I did, this trip would not only grow me into a more fulfilled person, but that fulfillment would extend to my work when I got back.

In our industry we are constantly being challenged by different problems that build stress. Having witnessed true hardship in a third-world country, these issues no longer seemed so massive to me. I suddenly had a calmer approach and felt more level headed. I also tapped into some new problem solving skills I didn’t know I had.

But this trip wasn’t just about becoming a better worker. Those gains were pleasant additions to the real profit that comes from charity work – fulfillment. While volunteering, my whole perspective changed. I realized just how big and complex our world is, how small I am, and yet how huge a difference a sliver of kindness and attention paid by me could make in another human being’s life. I saw so much happiness, hardship, drive, and pure joy in those two weeks that changed me in all the ways I had hoped for. Since returning from Myanmar, I’ve gotten more involved in my local communities, and have set a new goal to seek out bigger trips more often. Who knows where it’ll take me?

My experience volunteering abroad helped me become a stronger professional and a better person. Not many workers have the chance to hit pause for a moment and evaluate their life. It is my belief that the success of a business depends on its allowance for employees to do just that.

As Oct. 19 is Evaluate your Life Day, the time seemed right to share my journey and encourage others to reflect on where they are and where they want to go. It’s amazing what a little perspective can do.

 

This post originally appeared in MediaPost. Read it here.