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Cultivate your ‘third dimension’ to do good and well

24 January 2015

Happy New Year! It might seem a bit late but this is my first column of 2015 and it seems rather impolite not to greet you appropriately.

Have you made a new year resolution? Traditionally this is the time of the year we all rush out and buy a gym membership that we then rarely use, or invest in electronic cigarettes as we hope to shake off bad habits.

But resolutions these days extend further than dropping a dress size and careers are a frequent focus. Look at Amazon’s list of the ebooks it has put into the ‘New Year New You’ special offer; along with the obvious titles on losing weight and eating better, Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and James Caan’s Get the Job You Really Want (plus of course yours truly’s Careers Advice for Ambitious Women) feature prominently.

And me? What is my new year’s career resolution? Mine focuses on what I call my “third dimension”, that part of working life which is not paid. After 10 years of serving the education-to-employment charity, Career Ready, I am stepping down. Charities, like businesses, need fresh thinking from time to time. Plus all of us involved with charities, or any other third dimension activity, should review our commitments on a regular basis and make sure we do not get stale.

Third dimension activity is not just about “doing good”, it is about developing yourself as an individual and gaining skills and experience that you do not get in your current job. It is important to keep growing. Challenge yourself in 2015 to review the third dimension element of your career.

Are you not involved with any charities at all? Go out and find one. It does not necessarily mean that you will be spending time selling raffle tickets; on the contrary, it is often the third dimension activities in someone’s life that leads to a board career in the future. Become a school governor, or sit on a club board, for instance. Even though third dimension activity is unpaid, it does not have to be unrelated to work. For example, offer to serve in your company’s women’s network (even if you are a man). Or start one.

And if you already have a third dimension activity, or two, then could it be time to move on? I am sad to leave Career Ready; we have a great senior team, an outstanding chief executive, secure funding and are boosting the career chances of thousands of 16-19 year olds. But I joined the charity’s national advisory board in March 2005, became a trustee in October 2007 and chairwoman in March 2011. It is time to hand on the baton to learn new skills elsewhere.

So here’s to 2015. May it bring everything you hoped for in terms of your career, as well as in all the other areas of your life, including your third dimension.

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