Volunteering offers the opportunity for you to enter into a classic "win/win" situation: the organization for which you volunteer benefits from your free efforts on its behalf, while you benefit in any one of a number of significant ways, as listed below:
1) Add to Your Resume - Volunteering is a great way to “fatten up” a resume or help fill gaps in employment. If this is a primary reason for your volunteering, try to get yourself assigned to perform functions that would be most applicable to your job search goal. For example, if you have been a software programmer but want to move in the direction of web page design, ask to be involved in redoing the organization’s webpage. As a volunteer you are far more likely to get the opportunity to work in an area about which you know little than you would be in a paid employment situation.
2) Establish an “in” with an organization - If you know what company or in what field you want to work, volunteering can give you the opportunity to demonstrate to the “powers that be” there that you have the kind of skills, drive, and temperament they would value. You will want to do your best to insure that figures of influence in the organization have as direct an opportunity as possible to observe your work.
3) Passion / Purpose - Many clients are looking for a greater sense of purpose in their lives, often feeling that the 9 to 5 work they do isn’t really making a difference in any significant way. I help guide them in the search for that greater sense of purpose, but the search can take a while. In the interim, volunteering provides an “outlet” for that passion.
4) Variety - Particularly if your work is monotonous or draining it can be a revitalizing and welcome change of pace to do something different. Make sure that the “different” doesn’t wind up increasing your feeling of being burdened - select a volunteer position that can be fun (if you’re an extrovert that could mean speaking to groups interested in the volunteer organization’s field, for others working with children or animals would be refreshing).
5) Achievement - Many of my clients complain that their work doesn’t give them a sense of achievement; they know they are contributing in a general sense to an organization’s goals, but those goals may be of little significance to them, or they may be so far removed from the end result that they feel they’re having only a very minimal impact. They need to volunteer for a position that allows measuring impact in a quantifiable, direct way (e.g. delivering meals to homebound cancer or AIDS patients, or canvassing to sign up contributors or voters).
6) Feeling needed - Particularly for older workers, who can often feel invisible in our youth-oriented culture, volunteering (especially at a small organization) can give them a feeling of importance and value that they are hard-pressed to find in the normal course of their lives.
7) Networking - Expanding one’s network is an inherently good idea. If you are a Linkedin user (and ALL of my readers should be by now), every name you add as a connection (first degree) brings with it on average another 150 - 200 second degree connections!
8) Developing Skills - Volunteering can help you brush up on a rusty skill (ability to speak a foreign language, for example) or even acquire a new one (perhaps becoming adept at Twitter).
9) Career Advancement / Finding Employment - In numerous studies a large percentage of employers state that they are more likely to hire someone who has done volunteer work than someone with equal qualifications who has not. LinkedIn, the professional networking site, added a field for members to list their volunteer work in their profiles, after a survey found that 41 percent of employers said they considered volunteer work as important as paid work, and that 20 percent said they had made a hiring decision based on
10) Health - Numerous studies consistently demonstrate that there is a significant relationship between volunteering and better health. The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages more than 4 million Americans in volunteer service, concludes that “when individuals volunteer they ...experience better health in later years, whether in terms of greater longevity, higher functional ability, or lower rates of depression.”
- More than 68% of those who volunteered in the past year report that volunteering made them feel physically healthier.
- 29% of volunteers who suffer from a chronic condition say that volunteering has helped them manage their chronic illness.
- 89% of volunteers agree that volunteering improved their sense of well-being.
- 73% of volunteers feel that volunteering lowered their stress levels.
- 92% of volunteers agree that volunteering enriches their sense of purpose in life.
Volunteermatch.org is an excellent place to begin searching for the volunteer opportunity that will allow you to begin to accrue many of the benefits I've outlined above.