Why You Should: Volunteer Regularly
Whether you volunteered or were voluntold, odds are that you did a significant amount of service work in high school. Working a dozen different events and lending a hand at whatever charitable effort best fit your weekend schedule may have been a great way of racking up hours, but as you transition into adulthood, it’s important to make volunteering less of a happenstance and more of a habit.
Below are seven reasons (arranged from least to most altruistic) why committing to a regular volunteer gig is exactly what you need to do.
1. It looks good on your resume.
Volunteering is recommended for students, people who are unemployed and anyone who wants to broaden their horizons without narrowing their wallet. Volunteering regularly shows that you’re committed, conscientious and balanced. Who wouldn’t want that?
2. It’s an opportunity to network.
You may be volunteering your time, but there are likely paid positions at the organization that you’re helping out. If you enjoy working there for free, you will probably love getting paid. Working with and getting to know the higher-ups in a low-pressure, high-endorphin volunteering environment is a networking best-case scenario.
If you’re not so interested in a paid position, working with other volunteers can broaden your social and business networks beyond the crowd you’d meet in class or as an intern.
3. It makes you healthier.
An article published by Duke Law found that volunteering has positive effects on your physical and mental health, socialization and identity as a citizen. Like exercise, volunteering is something we all know that we should do (and often enjoy while we’re doing it), but still procrastinate.
Making a commitment to volunteering regularly puts you in a position to build relationships with your fellow volunteers and those whom you serve, which can contribute to your mental health and happiness.
4. It helps you develop skills.
Most large group volunteer opportunities (think things you did as a scout, in a church group or as a class) involve lots of unskilled labor made easier by the many helping hands. But becoming a regular volunteer lends itself to a different kind of work and ample opportunities for skills you wouldn’t otherwise pick up.
For example, you might volunteer at a community center and learn how to use Photoshop and InDesign to make programming flyers. Or you might tutor at an elementary school and learn a few tricks from the teachers there.
5. It gives you a vocational framework.
From about the tenth grade onward, it seems that students are constantly being asked what they’re going to do with their lives. Whether you have no idea whatsoever or figured out your perfect niche when you were five, there is a volunteer position that can help you discern how you can have a positive impact on the world.
If you don’t know what to do or just have a vague idea, find any volunteer opportunity that doesn’t seem awful and go for it. Pay attention to what you’re good at, what you like and how the people you’re serving respond to you. If you think you know what you want to do, explore the volunteer opportunities in your field to find out how your future profession helps people.
6. It benefits society.
John Stuart Mill (as paraphrased by Spock) once said that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and volunteering is one of the most painless ways to set aside your own needs to help everyone around you.
Volunteering is good for the people you’re directly helping, because it fulfills needs that might otherwise be neglected. It helps the people who have devoted their lives to [insert cause here], because it’s encouraging to see total strangers give up their time to contribute to that cause. Volunteering regularly sets an example for your classmates, friends, young siblings, nieces and nephews and everyone else who sees you doing something good. Your simple commitment has a ripple effect that goes far beyond the basic tasks you directly perform.
7. It helps someone else.
Get on Facebook, open a Reader’s Digest or turn on the Hallmark movie channel and you’ll undoubtedly find a feel-good story about someone whose life was impacted by the simple (or not so simple) actions of others. Though sometimes cheesy, these stories are rooted in real experiences. Volunteering puts you in a position to give someone an experience like that in a situation where they expect only the opposite.
Whatever you’re passionate about, whatever you’re able to do and however you want to reach out to the people around you, there’s a volunteer position that can help you do it. Volunteering regularly will hold you to what you’ve set out to do and help you and those whom you serve achieve the goals you’ve set.