5 Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteerism benefits your local community, contributes to worthy causes, and improves the quality of life for those in need. The impact of volunteerism can be seen on both a small-scale local level and a large-scale global level. However, what is rarely talked about is the way volunteering can benefit the volunteers themselves.
Becoming a volunteer is an excellent way to make social contacts, improve skills, advance your career, grow as a person, and of course, make a real and valuable contribution in the lives of others. To consider the personal and professional benefits of volunteering may seem a bit selfish, but there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that in the process of helping others, you improve yourself.
1. Personal Growth
Volunteering helps you to learn and grow as a person. You become more aware of important issues and needs in the world around you. Volunteering exposes you to new experiences and helps you to discover new interests. When you freely choose to give of your skills, energy, and time, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, and a boost to your self-confidence.
The sense of fulfillment that you gain from giving to others also can result in lower stress levels and improved health and well-being. Volunteering has been shown to reduce depression and increase happiness. Volunteering helps us to stay mentally engaged and alive as we age and if we choose to volunteer in a physical way, it also helps to keep our bodies fit and healthy.
2. Career Advancement
Volunteering can be a huge boost to your career. Many employers prefer a job candidate who has volunteer experience in addition to standard work experience. Volunteering helps to demonstrate to both prospective employers and educational institutions that you are a well-rounded person. It shows that you have varied interests, and a good sense of a work life balance. It also demonstrates that you are willing to give more than the minimum amount of effort, even when you aren’t being compensated.
Becoming a volunteer helps you to explore new career paths and to gain experience in a related or completely different career field. Another often-overlooked benefit of volunteering is the opportunity to meet new professional contacts. There is nothing unethical about expanding your professional network in the course of volunteering.
3. Social Connection
Volunteering not only helps with professional networking, it also allows you to build a larger personal network as well. You can make new friends, meet people in your community, and build a larger group of personal contacts from diverse backgrounds.
Becoming a volunteer also allows you to improve your interpersonal and social skills. If you are a natural extrovert, then becoming part of a volunteer community will feed your need for social interaction. Alternatively, if you have a tendency to be shy and introverted, volunteering for a cause you believe in helps you to build communication skills, and become more comfortable with interacting with a variety of people around you.
4. Skill Development
Volunteering helps you to learn new skills or further develop existing ones. Becoming a volunteer gives you opportunities to practice skills that you may not use in your work life. Volunteer work also allows you to try new skills in areas that interest you. Volunteering may also allow you to become aware of interests and skills that you weren’t even aware of.
Volunteering for an environmental organization can help you to learn about conservation, wildlife, and the preservation of natural resources. Choosing to volunteer for health organization, can make you more knowledgeable about the field of healthcare, counseling, or disease prevention. If you’re interested in a more administrative role, volunteering can help you to learn about fundraising, project management, recruitment, or communications. There are many opportunities to learn skills or receive training that will benefit you in a personal or professional manner.
Certainly, the most obvious benefit of volunteering is the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. Becoming a volunteer allows you to get involved in a cause that you feel passionate about and to have a real impact in bettering the world around you. Giving your time and energy to a worthy cause allows you to feel needed and valued. It also gives you a sense of a larger altruistic purpose in your life.
When seeking opportunities to volunteer, don’t limit yourself to organizations or causes that you are aware of. Look around, do some research, and also consider your interests and skills. Think about why you want to volunteer and how you would like to give of yourself. How much time do you have to give? Do you want to learn something new or do something you’re already good at? What social causes or needs interest you, or tug on your heartstrings? What talents or knowledge do you have to contribute? Would you prefer a more physical role? Does a visible role or a behind-the-scenes role appeal to you more?
There are so many available opportunities to volunteer. Knowing what you want to learn, hope to accomplish, and desire to give, helps you to find the best volunteer opportunity that suits your skills and needs. You will have a greater impact if you are passionate about your cause and committed to making a difference. In return, you will discover that as a consequence of giving of yourself you’ll experience personal and professional benefits as well.