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Here’s the Easiest Thing You Can Do to Be a Better Employee

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Coworkers doing a high-five at the office.Photograph by Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: If you had an extra day in the week, how would you spend it? is written by Racquel Oden, head of advisor strategy and development at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

If I magically had an extra day in the week it would probably be focused on two things: paying that gift forward by giving back to others, and trying something new. As an example of giving back, I enjoy working with young people — college students and millennials — developing the next generation, introducing them to Wall Street, and training them for future leadership roles in corporate America. It’s not just about helping them succeed in college, it’s about preparing them for fulfilling careers. And in return, I get to interact with innovative, purposeful, and diverse individuals who inspire me to do more.

The benefit of giving back is actually a reciprocal process. It’s a way to make social connections. In fact, a recent Merrill Lynch study shared that giving back can be a key ingredient to make retirement “happier, healthier and more purposeful.” I’m not ready to retire yet, but giving back has certainly had that impact on my life so far.

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And the variety of options available for giving back is endless. Mix it up. Try new things. That keeps it even more interesting and rewarding. Personally, I think volunteering is a great way to try something new. Last year I worked with Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program. It was a privilege to participate in a project with a group of women who come together to raise awareness, funds, and ultimately, new homes for those less fortunate, including single, hard working women.

And giving back doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking or commitment of time, or even with the same group or organization. Think about what interests you, what you are passionate about, and what you have to offer. It can be anything from mentoring a new employee on your team, to donating those business suits you no longer wear to charity. These may sound like small things but they could make a very big difference to someone else.

I’ve always been a proponent of giving back and trying new things — putting yourself out there, even if it means getting “comfortably uncomfortable.” You get exposed to new ideas, new people, new challenges, and new opportunities beyond our day-to-day experiences. You never know where it will lead. And in the meantime, you’re enhancing your well-being and bringing more balance to your life. Who could ask for anything more than that? I’d say that’s a great use of “extra time”.