As a journalist for more than 15 years, Ken Lee, 42, relished using his skills as an impartial observer. But over time, covering stories of war, crime and catastrophe started to take its toll. Lee decided to take a buy out from his last employer and regroup. What he didn’t know was how important volunteering would become to his transition.
“I really had no clue what I would be doing,” he recalled. “I felt like I has lost my soul as a reporter. I wanted to plunge myself into something almost purely good. Getting involved in the world of volunteerism made me feel refreshed and focused on what’s really important.”
For the past year, Lee has volunteered full time at L.A. Works, a volunteer action center that creates and implements hands-on community service projects throughout the greater Los Angeles area. He started as a copywriter, and soon realized there was no social media plan in place. He stepped up and offered to build the organization’s social media practices from the ground up. “I wanted to take my experience and skills and apply them to telling good stories. Like most people, I felt starved for good news. L.A. Works has given me the opportunity to explore how my skills can be used in a different way.”
Telling stories through video, photos and digital content on platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook has brought L.A. Works’ mission into sharper focus. For Lee, it’s been a year of learning on all kinds of levels. “I look at it as a radical sabbatical,” he said. “I went back to school in a sense and saw how my skills could create stories that would be transformative and inspire other people to volunteer and give back too.” Getting up to speed on social media marketing and how it can apply to the non-profit world was part of his learning process, as was getting behind the scenes of a non-profit and seeing how it operates on a day-to-day basis.
Lee will have to go back to working a full time job sometime in the near future. What that’s going to look like is still uncertain. “But whatever I do next has to have meaning and make a difference,” he said. “It can’t be about just making a dollar. My experience volunteering has helped me get realigned as to what’s most important in life. I want to produce content that inspires. I know people are starved for uplifting good news. I’ve found a lot of joy knowing that even though my career seemed over, it was actually reborn into something good. I can’t think of a better way to use my time than helping a nonprofit tells its stories.”