A volunteer is someone who performs or offers to perform a service out of his own free will, most of the time without any form of payment. Volunteering is not only beneficial to the community you serve, but can have many returns for you too. Such benefits are manifold:
Learn or develop new skills
Through volunteering, you get to discover something you are really good at and develop new skills. It is never too late to learn new skills. There is no reason you should stop adding to your knowledge and skills just because you have completed your education or are already employed. In planning and implementing a project even as a volunteer, you can develop goal setting, planning and budgeting skills. By supervising and training a project team, you could develop supervisory and training skills. These are examples of skills that can enhance a career but you don’t have to develop skills with the intention of facilitating your career. Performing administrative duties in an organization can enable you develop project management skills. Explore your love for tree-planting and you can volunteer your talents to local organizations. As a matter of fact, the possibilities are just numerous.
Be part of the making of your community
Nobody is an island. We sometimes take for granted the community that we live in. People and societies depend on each other for survival although the quest for profit threatens to erode traditional communal values. Volunteering is an honourable way of helping the needy and having an impact on the lives of people in your community and elsewhere. What better way is there to connect with your community and give a little back? As a volunteer, you certainly return to society some of the benefits that society gives you.
Generate motivation and sense of achievement
Fundamentally, volunteering is about giving your time, energy and skills freely. Unlike many things in life there is choice involved in volunteering. As a volunteer you have made a decision to help on your own accord, free from pressure to act from others. Volunteers predominantly express a sense of achievement and motivation, and this is ultimately generated from your desire and enthusiasm to help. Sometimes volunteers are regarded as do-gooders and those that hold that view also assume that one person can never make a difference. It may be true that no one person can solve all the world’s problems, but what you can do is make that little corner of the world where you live just that little bit better.
Boost your career options
Many surveys have shown that many leading organizations would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without, because they believe that volunteering can add to skills.
Also, if you are thinking of a career change then volunteering is a perfect way to explore new fields. If you have a passion for the arts but have career in computing, then why not volunteer at a theatre troop? Or if your ambitions are to be a doctor why not find out about volunteer opportunities at a hospital – the ideal way to expand your work portfolio in your field and to gain a real insight into your chosen path?
Develop new interests and hobbies
Sometimes we do get locked into the « rat-race » of life and volunteering can give that escape to everyday routine and create a balance in our lives. Finding new interests and hobbies through volunteering can be fun, relaxing and energizing. Help run a youth project for a few hours a week or assist in publishing an NGO’s newsletter. The energy and sense of fulfilment can carry over to a work situation and sometimes helps to relieve tensions and foster new perspectives for old situations. Sometimes a volunteer experience can lead you to something you never even thought about or help you discover a hobby or interest you were unaware of. You can strengthen your personal/professional mission and vision by exploring opportunities and expanding your horizons.
Gain new experiences
Volunteering is a brilliant way to get life experience. Whether you build a library or distribute flyers to raise awareness for a local NGO, you will experience the real world through hands-on work. Volunteers can do almost anything and with the new millennium has dawned an era of infinite volunteer opportunities. For example, it is possible to volunteer in different communities and or organizations and see the direct impact of your actions on some of the most vulnerable people of the world.
An opportunity to meet a diverse range of people
Volunteering brings together a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Both the recipients of your volunteer efforts and your co-workers can be a rich source of inspiration and an excellent way to develop your interpersonal skills. Volunteering also offers an incredible networking opportunity. Not only will you develop lasting personal and professional relationships but it is also a great way to learn about people from all walks of life, different environments, and new industries. Networking is an exciting benefit of volunteering and you can never tell who you will meet or what new information you will learn and what impact this could have on your life.
Send a signal to your employer, teachers, friends and family
People pay attention to your life outside the environment in which they have direct contact with you. For example, your employer would be interested in the activities that give you a good work-life balance, just as academic institutions are interested in your extra-curricular activities. Volunteering reflects and supports a complete picture of you, and gives real examples of your commitment, dedication and interests. Show people what you are passionate about and maybe you will inspire them too!