The Personal Benefits of Volunteer Work
Have you ever felt the desire to help your community, but wondered how you would find the time for others? While altruism is arguably the best motivator for enlisting with a charitable organization, there are many tangible personal advantages to giving your time for nonprofit work. Whether you are a student, a working professional or a stay-at-home mom, volunteering is an excellent way to gain work experience and broaden your social network.
For one, volunteer work will flesh out your resume and set you apart from the crowd. Past charity work says a lot about your character, giving you a multi-dimensional personality and highlighting your good nature. Even more importantly, volunteer positions show future employers your drive and dedication. Such accomplishments demonstrate initiative, personal will, leadership skills and the ability to work hard.
Sandra H., a successful young woman from Toronto, has experienced first-hand what charity work can do for your career. She has a Masters degree from the University of Oxford and was recently offered a job with a global IT consulting firm. When she was 18, Sandra volunteered for a Big Sister program in her hometown, which she says was not only an immensely fulfilling experience - it also gave her an edge career-wise. "People are really impressed by long-term volunteer commitments and activities," she explains. "This volunteer position has helped me endlessly with job applications and interviews. I'm pretty sure it's the reason I got my summer job at a law firm, and having had that job in conjunction with the Big Sister project has certainly helped me in my achievements."
Another motivation for volunteering is to broaden your horizons and develop new skills that could be beneficial to your career. You may discover interests you were unaware of, learn more about a subject that appeals to you, or even choose a new career path!
A nonprofit job opens the door to meeting many interesting and diverse people that can have an impact on your life, in one way or another.
Surveys show most people feel they have benefited from meeting volunteer contacts and developed better interpersonal and communication skills while participating in charity work. Keep in mind that social contacts are also a potential career investment: an acquaintance could very well be the key to a new career opportunity. Networking is a valuable tool to increasing your business prospects. And don't forget, a philanthropic group activity is the perfect setting in which to impress others and show off your abilities.
If nothing else, volunteer work offers the opportunity to meet people who share your interests. Many adults find it difficult to meet new people outside of the work or home environment. Volunteering at a local organization can be a good way to make new friends - or even new romantic interests!
Good for the Body and Soul
Feeling under the weather? Try volunteering! Research shows there may be health benefits to volunteering. For example, an improved sense of well-being and higher self-esteem may lower certain health risks associated with anxiety and depression.
Perhaps the most important of all reasons to volunteer is to experience the sense of achievement and personal fulfillment that volunteering can bring. Joanna C. is a preschool teacher from Vancouver whose past volunteer work helped her land the teaching position she currently holds. Now that she's working full-time, she continues to volunteer for young children with learning disabilities because of the personal joy it brings her to reach out to others. " I truly love all the families and children I have met while doing this and I always look forward to it," she says. The appreciation Joanna feels for these families and the feeling of giving back to her community are immeasurably gratifying. Volunteering can give you self-confidence and self-worth that will reflect on all aspects of your life.
Finding a Volunteer Organization
To find a volunteer job that is right for you, first consider your interests and determine which causes you are most passionate about. Do you enjoy working directly with people? Is caring for animals or wildlife more your style? Once you have determined the general type of work that inspires you, you can contact local organizations to find out if they are in need of volunteers. For a broad view of some of the positions that are available, check out www.volunteermatch.org or www.volunteersolutions.org: these websites have listings of volunteer positions by zip code and will undoubtedly have a diverse list of opportunities near you.
Now you can set aside the time for volunteering, knowing you will be helping others as well as yourself!