Using your time and talents to help others enriches not just their lives but your own, as well, as volunteering has been shown to combat psychological issues like stress, anger, and anxiety.
Beyond that, volunteering can also give your career a boost by helping you create new connections, gain meaningful experiences working on a team, bulk up your resume, and learn new skills. But where to start? We’ll explore reasons for volunteering, how to choose the right opportunity for you, and ways that volunteer work can enrich your career.
Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering allows you to impact your community while meeting new people. Whether you’re helping people, animals, or organizations, you’re making a meaningful impact by sharing your time.
You’ll also make friendships with fellow volunteers, helping to combat depression and strengthen your social bonds. Fellow volunteers share common interests -- after all, you all chose the same cause -- which can make social encounters easier for those who may find social situations stressful or awkward. Plus, the more you volunteer, the better it feels -- studies conducted by Harvard University have shown that volunteering once per week is equivalent to a “life-changing salary boost,” in terms of its impact on your level of happiness.
Beyond its psychological and community-enriching benefits, volunteering can give you a competitive edge in your job hunt. In a study conducted by Deloitte, 82 percent of hiring managers and hiring influencers surveyed indicated they would look more favorably upon a resume that included volunteer work. Despite that, only about 30 percent of resumes actually contain volunteer information! To say you’d be helping your resume stand out is an understatement.
How to Choose the Right Volunteer Opportunity
With so many organizations that need a helping hand it can feel difficult to pick just one. Start by thinking of areas or subjects you’re passionate about. Are you an animal lover? Volunteering in a shelter could be a great fit. Does the idea of helping out senior citizens appeal to you? Organizations that help deliver meals to seniors might be perfect for you. Are you creative? Working in an after-school art program for children could be extremely rewarding. Book lover? You could help with literacy programs in your community. Great at working with your hands and have the endurance or physical labor? There are plenty of beautification and cleanup projects, from your neighborhood park to National Parks.
Once you’ve considered different volunteering options and have a general idea of what you’d like to pursue, check out sites like VolunteerMatch.org. You can narrow down your search results by city and state, which means making an impact in your individual community is easier than ever.
How Volunteering Can Impact Your Career and Expand Your Network
Once you select a volunteering opportunity, you’ll benefit from networking opportunities with like-minded individuals. Volunteering can connect you with people that could help you in a job search or provide valuable mentorship -- after all, you never know whom you’re going to meet!
According to Kat Boogaard of TheMuse.com, “Generally, volunteer opportunities have a pretty friendly, low-pressure environment. This means that you can have genuine, engaging conversations with people who share your interests—without that awkward air of expectations.”
Volunteering can also teach you valuable information about your own work habits and goals. If you’re searching for a new opportunity or looking to break into a new field, volunteering in an environment outside of your career area is a great way familiarize yourself with a new industry. Volunteering also provides a low-stakes environment, in which you can learn how you work best.
Communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and organization are just a few skills you can pick up as a volunteer. These skills aid immeasurably in any workplace and can help you perform better in your existing role or increase your chances of getting hired.