There are many surprising benefits of volunteering for your career, as well as for your business. Read on to learn more about how volunteering can improve your life and your organization.
Have you ever wanted to find a way to learn new skills, while making friends and advancing your career? If this sounds like you, you might be interested in volunteering. Not only does volunteering make you feel happy, but the benefits of volunteering also includes allowing you to develop skills useful for your career while contributing to communities and the environment.
What is Volunteering?
Before diving into the benefits of volunteering for yourself, your career and your business, let’s first look at what exactly volunteering is. The legal definition, according to Californian labor laws, is “a person who performs work for charitable, humanitarian, or civic reasons for a public agency or non-profit organization, without the expectation, promise, or receipt of any compensation for their work.”
To put it simply, volunteering is freely offering your time and skills to a community that requires assistance.
Benefits of Volunteering
The benefits of volunteering can be divided into social, personal, career and business benefits. Volunteering offers you the opportunity to make a real and tangible difference in the lives of people, animals, and nature, as well as benefitting your own life.
Social Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to involve dealing with a lot of people; there are also opportunities suitable for the introverts among us. Volunteering opportunities with social benefits can include building homes in impoverished communities, political campaigning, or fundraising through competitions. As you can imagine, these different opportunities will have different levels of social interactions and offer a wide variety of social benefits.
Making Friends and Meeting People
Volunteering is one of the best ways to meet new people who can eventually turn into friends, as well as strengthening existing relationships with the people in your life who join you in volunteering. Volunteers often come from diverse backgrounds and can include international volunteers, and therefore you can learn a lot from different cultures and other people’s perspectives.
Once you share a common interest with someone, such as the other people that offered to volunteer at the same place as you, it becomes much easier to connect and build a relationship over shared passions.
Improving Social Skills
If you are a bit more on the shy side, volunteering will allow you to talk with new people and increase your social skills. If you spend a lot of time volunteering with new people and using your newly acquired social skills, you can enhance your existing personal and professional relationships.
Finding your Tribe
Volunteering may help you feel more connected not only to your fellow volunteers but also to the people or community you are assisting. This could be an entryway into getting involved in other community projects and programs and introduce you to people that have similar goals and beliefs as yourself.
By helping others, you help yourself. Volunteering has the possibility to enhance your self-esteem since you feel like you are spending your time well and making a difference in the lives of others. This will provide you with a sense of accomplishment, which will make you feel better about yourself.
Personal Benefits of Volunteering
When you help others, you cannot help but feel happy, excited, and positive about your choices. Volunteering and helping others have a knock-on effect by improving your wellbeing.
Provides a Sense of Purpose
Most (if not all) volunteer work is purposeful and helps others – both humans and animals. When you volunteer, you find a sense of purpose by becoming a part of something big outside of your own life.
Physical Health Benefits
Apart from reducing stress (which has all kinds of negative impacts on our bodies), doing physical and hands-on volunteer work can improve your overall physical wellbeing. The new skills you acquire and the challenges you overcome can also improve your brain functioning, by enhancing your problem-solving skills, improving memory, and reducing the risk of age-related diseases.
Fights the Effects of Stress
Volunteering can take your mind off of the stressors in your own life. When you contribute meaningfully to an organization or cause that you are passionate about, it can help lessen your own feelings of stress and anxiety. Connecting with other like-minded individuals will also provide us with social interaction which will help with feelings of loneliness.
Benefits of Volunteering for Career
Volunteering holds many benefits for your career. Many people turn to volunteering before they enter the job market, as it boosts their skills and experience levels in their field of interest. Volunteering may help you land paid jobs down the line.
Learning New Skills
Depending on the project you are volunteering for, you may undergo some training before getting involved. This training coupled with hands-on experience will help you learn new skills which may be valuable in your future (or existing) career. Volunteering may provide skills like communication, marketing, networking, or physical skills. These skills can be included in your resume and may improve your chances of landing your dream job.
Providing Job Opportunities and Networking
Volunteering does not only offer career benefits by teaching you skills in your field of interest, it may also provide you with networking opportunities. By volunteering, you are introduced to many people in the industry, and these people can become mentors, or may provide you with paid job opportunities.
If you volunteered in a field you want to pursue a career in, the connections you make may widen your job prospects. Volunteering and the experience and skills gained looks good on a resume and may make you more attractive to employers than someone with similar academic qualifications.
Volunteering may also enable you to identify gaps in the market and offer you a better understanding of current issues. If you harness your entrepreneurial spirit, you may be able to turn this knowledge into a new business idea. You can also use your skills gained through volunteering to establish your own nonprofit organization.
Benefits of Volunteering for Business
Not only individuals can benefit from volunteering for their careers or personal growth. Companies and businesses can also benefit from enabling employees to volunteer, or to host volunteering initiatives themselves. Employees – especially the younger generation – are seeking job fulfillment and meaningful work experiences. Workplace volunteering schemes are one initiative that can be implemented at work to give employees a sense of “giving back”. Companies that allow for paid time-off for volunteering have been proven to attract top candidates, as well as boost overall employee productivity by giving a sense of purpose to employees, while also giving back to the community. Below are some benefits of volunteering for business.
Improved Company Image
By compiling a volunteering scheme for employees, a company reveals its values and what it cares about. Stakeholders, investors, clients, and potential employees often consider the values of a company when making decisions to support the company or not. By publicly supporting the community, a business will have an improved public image and can potentially attract new investors and clients.
Improved Employee Retention
Happy employees tend to want to return to work every day. Employees that are satisfied with their employer’s values and volunteering programs may remain at the company for a longer time. When employees feel that they are actively giving back to society through company-driven schemes, they may feel a deeper commitment to their place of work.
Higher Standard of Workforce
If volunteering programs are hosted by a business function in the same sector as the business itself, employees will develop new and useful skills that can be implemented at work. All employees that take part in the volunteering scheme will benefit from the added experience, which will result in a stronger and higher skilled workforce for the business.
Boosted Company Culture
Having a good company culture is important, as it motivates the workforce to go above and beyond what is expected of them, and also makes the company more attractive for new candidates. By offering a volunteering program at work, employees will benefit from learning new skills, and will also feel more valued by the business. This is because the employees are offered an opportunity to work with colleagues in a hands-on environment, which is appreciated by the company.
Only Passion and Positivity Required
You do not need a lengthy resume to become a volunteer. You only need to demonstrate a passion for the cause and a positive attitude, coupled with a willingness to do what is required. Volunteering may result in benefits to yourself, your career goals, or even your business. Volunteering offers you the opportunity to explore your interests while learning new skills. Many people with full-time jobs volunteer outside of their working hours to give back to the community or pursue their passions that fall outside of their scope of work.
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Author: Adri Meyer holds a B.Sc Conservation Ecology from Stellenbosch University and a M.Phil Marine and Environmental Law from the University of Cape Town. She has 2 years working with BirdLife South Africa, a conservation NGO, and 5 years working as an Environmental Assessment Practitioner, conducting Environmental Impact Assessments within the agriculture, housing and waste industry, and acting as an Environmental Control Officer on construction sites. She has 1 year’s experience as a content creator for several sustainability and conservation focused websites. In her free time, she volunteers at the Seabird and Penguin Rehabilitation Center (SAPREC) as well as the local Animal Welfare.