“I want to make a difference”

Each month I meet with 6-10 people that I have never met before. Most of them come to meet me if they are introduced by others who I know. They think we should know each other and often times they are right! In the last year many of these meetings have centred around the person wanting to meet me because they want to "make a difference." They want to do something that gives them bigger purpose and either want to volunteer with my company (we don't/rarely do that - we are a company) or they want to know how I do things. Almost all these people are mothers, women and are frustrated by the systems that are in place. So I wanted to write this as a "pre-meeting" for people who really want to make a difference!

For anyone who wants to make a difference:

  1. This is not a thinking exercise. Changemakers, advocates and those people who you admire are not thinking about change - they are doing it. They are adjusting as they go and thinking on their feet. They spend 10+ hours a week on top of their job, kids etc. It is a commitment. The first thing you do won't be the right or perfect thing and neither will the second. Organize an education campaign, get 500 seniors to vote in the next election, run for school board trustee and learn how budgets are set. That is how we all started - as unglamourous as it is.
  2. Be prepared for it not to work or be a fantastic failure. Most advocacy campaigns fail. Just like you only get 1 job out of the 100 you apply for. Keep going and learn from the failures.
  3. "But I" there will always be a reason you can't do things and you do not need to apologize. You have done nothing wrong. Maybe you were raising your kids, caring for your parents, were struggling with mental health. You didn't do anything wrong - the fact that you are here now is a great start! I always hesitate about being so transparent about my struggles - I am disabled, I have a brain injury and it makes a lot of things difficult, I still go to rehab and occupational therapy, 2 of my kids spend a significant time at the hospital and there are weeks I can do very little. But I also need you to know that I can not "turn off." I don't sleep a ton, I obsessively think about the things that are of interest to me (advocacy) and that is not normal. I do not think that is how people should function...but it is how I function and I feel like I am putting myself to good use.
  4. Advocates work incredibly hard - we don't do this for pay or recognition. We do it because we don't have a choice. I don't do this because I have nothing else to do, I do it because it feels like a part of me. We spend our time looking for those who show up and have done the work. I work with people or bring people on to my team who have a track record of showing up - at parent council, on the picket line or for a cause that is important to them.
  5. Don't ask what you should do - tell us how you can help or give concrete examples of how you think I can help you. I have had calls over the past 2 years that have lead to some of the best friendships and collaborations and I am going to lay them out here: Rachelle Bensoussan, Janelle Benjamin, Molly Dickens, Shafina Coelho, Katherine Goldstein, Rickesh Lakhahi, Josh Siegel, Katie German. Every single one of them was a genuine exchange of two people who who were already fighting in their own way and we could NOT not work together or be supportive of each other.
  6. Your failures are just as valid as your wins. Tell me about them. Tell me about what you tried. We can grow together. I will always ask how I can help. Every time. Moms at Work only exists so we can support others.
  7. Moms at Work is 5 years old and wasn't profitable for 2. I worked and continue to work/volunteer thousands of hours a year taking time away from my family, taking calls in hospital hallways and not sleeping while I write blog posts like this. Why am I telling you this? Objectively I am a failure. I couldn't get a business to make money and I don't run a billion dollar company. Personally I am exactly where I want to be. I have a team I love, a community I get to fight every day for and people who bring me in to their workplaces, professional associations and believe that we can be more together.
  8. Moms at Work is a terrible business model. We make about 50% less money than other women's organizations. Why? Because I take no sponsorships or government funding to keep telling the stories of the women who have been discriminated against and I can say things like - Walmart is a union busting horrible business model. Chris Smalls and the Amazon Union make my heart happy. Abortion is healthcare. I have no funders to piss off - just mothers to fight for. We will exist as long as YOU keep working with us and keeping us going.

If you are feeling stuck in your career and know that it is time for a change, our Midlife Career Change Guide can help you take those very first steps to figure out the what and how of making the switch.

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Allison Venditti

Career Coach, HR Expert, salary negotiation whisperer, pay transparency and equity advocate. Founder of Moms at Work, Canada's largest organization committed to helping women earn more money, land better jobs and build community. Allison was named The Globe and Mail Report on Business Top 50 Changemakers 2022, is a regular speaker and media expert with over 100 interviews in 2021.

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