When you hear the word “volunteering”, what comes to mind? Organizations capitalizing on free labor? You grudgingly slaving away at a homeless shelter to justify a sense of altruism? Or maybe joyfully spending your Saturdays coaching local kid’s soccer team. To different people volunteering means different things and serves different purposes. Volunteering can be much more than just giving your time and energy to the betterment of community. Here are a few other unique perks volunteering offers you, and those who receive your services:
Develop real work skills and competencies
Volunteering your time and talents not only allows you to utilize the skills you already have, it also allows you to learn new ones. For example, do you want to improve your self-confidence? Volunteer at the Youth Empowerment Centre. Or, do you want to better your writing skills? Give time to REACH Edmonton.
From a 2010 survey by the Salvation Army, two-thirds of volunteers say their volunteer activities improved their interpersonal skills by helping them understand people better, motivating others and dealing with difficult situations. These are all vital skills that complement your academic knowledge, make your resume more formidable and increase your competence in the workplace and in life.
Improve your health
People who volunteer feel happier, have a sense of purpose, and experience the rich rewards that come with giving their time. Being generous with your time and effort can lead to improved physical and mental health for yourself and others. Volunteering while performing physically-demanding tasks such as mowing a lawn, construction, or even walking a busy person’s dogs, are great ways to get the much needed exercise your body craves while doing good for others.
A key risk factor for depression is social isolation, and volunteering addresses this by keeping you in regular contact with others and helping you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. Studies from Carnegie Mellon University found that performing 200 hours of volunteering per year correlated to lower blood pressure. So go work your way to better health!
Hoping to work for an organization but not sure what the workplace experience is like? Why not contact them and offer them your time and energy for free for a semester? If they accept you, you will gain valuable career perspectives, make professional connections and your employers will benefit from your eager commitment and work.
Regardless of your age or career level, volunteering will introduce you to new professional paths. Volunteering can be an excellent way to learn more about a particular role or sector (particularly if you are coming from a for-profit job and hoping to switch to nonprofit or government), workplace or office culture, or cause. Also, never underestimate the power of networking; volunteering offers the opportunity to cross paths—as well as, in many cases, quickly bond—with people from across your community, including many of whom you may otherwise not have had contact.
Think you’re the only student concerned about the lack of awareness of how crypto-currencies’ may impact the way we fundamentally exchange goods and services? Or maybe you think the Ebola virus is not getting as much attention as it should and you want to do something about it and don’t know how? By volunteering your time, you can associate with like-minded people to address issues like these. In addition to professional networking, volunteering can be a fun, meaningful way to make new friends. Perhaps you’re a new international student or just new to the community in general? Looking to branch out socially? Simply looking for something to do with new people? Volunteer and get to know others who care about the same issues that you do. In many cases, volunteers can attend activities for free and reinvent their social life without financial burden.
Make an impact
Whether it’s helping a new immigrant improve their language skills, or helping the Red Cross provide amenities to survivors of a natural disaster, a life of impact in others is always a great way to live. You would be simply amazed at how much of a difference a couple of hours a week of tutoring, mentoring or other volunteering opportunities can make in someone’s life, and also in yours. You become more aware of your environment and the power you wield to effect a change, no matter how little a change it seems.
Want to volunteer but don’t know how to get started? Attend Concordia’s Volunteer Fair!
Below are some links to get you started on your way to becoming a volunteer superhero!